I had an interesting time reading this book. At first I was very excited to start it, because I'd just finished reading The Farthest Shore, and couldnI had an interesting time reading this book. At first I was very excited to start it, because I'd just finished reading The Farthest Shore, and couldn't wait for some more earthsea. After a few chapters I was less excited, and trying to figure out what Le Guin was doing with earthsea now. At first it seemed as if maybe the metaphors had changed or something... as if how she envisioned earthsea, and what the meaning was behind things had fundamentally shifted. And because of that feeling, I started to not like this book at all, because I'd enjoyed the first three books so much, and the meaning I'd found there. So I got almost halfway and stopped reading it for a bit. Then, being the stubborn reader I am, I decided to pick it up again after a short rest - and I'm glad I did, because I ended up enjoying this book a lot. I don't think the "meaning" behind the elements of earthsea have changed at all, I just think we are seeing earthsea from a different vantage point. And really, each of the first three books were pretty different from each other, so it makes sense that this one would be too. One of the main things this book focuses on is gender. There are a few parts where you'll be hit over the head with it, and wher it feels a bit contrived, but those examples are few. I definitely found the discussions on gender interesting, but didn't necessarily find them conclusive (which is maybe as it should be: we should be open to exploring this stuff, but not coming to any final say about it; because indeed gender relations are a tricky and complicated thing). I was recently living in a small village in Mali, where gender roles are extremely set in place, and there is almost no room for movement between the two (as we have here where I live in Canada). I found that experience of living there interesting, because it opened my eyes to seeing that gender roles are not inherently a bad thing - however the way it is often enacted, especially with the power inequality between men and women, can be hugely problematic. Living in a place, and being part of a community, where gender roles aren't necessarily central to our lives, I found this to be a really eye opening experience. Anyway, I bring this tidbit up because the gender roles in this book reminded me of my experiences there. It seems to me that Le Guin is also saying that there is a place for gender roles. In some of the conversations, it's said that the type of energy and power that men and women possess really is different. However this doesn't justify women being oppressed to clean up the dishes every single day. And it doesn't justify violence against women. Nothing justifies an abuse of power, and the imbalance that results from that. And I think this is a message that's been in all the earthsea books so far: finding a way to live that reflects the natural balance of our world. Like cob in the last book, over-valuing life and trying to avoid death. Here, instead of women and men, we have life and death. A world out of balance is like the dry lands in the last book: everything so dry and solid, that it's flaking/falling apart. We need both, water and rock, fluidity and solidity. The masculine and the feminine. Both exist in the other and rely on the other. So.. what I'm getting at is that the message, the metaphors, have no changed at all (I think), just what Le Guin is focusing on has changed. I also have to say that I fell in love with Tenar and Therru. I really felt for them in a way I didn't feel for the characters in the first three books. There are two main scenes in the book where the evil wizard man is being mean to these two, and each time I cried. I found these scenes incredibly sad and moving. Therru is a really interesting character: in some ways representing the violence that is done towards women in a society that is misogynist. It's her that has to carry those scars, and overcome them. Another thing that initially turned me off the book at first, was the realist style with which the book is written. At first it didn't feel like fantasy to me, but now I think I actually really appreciate the style of this book. I think it made the places where there was magic being used that much more powerful. For example the scene where the evil wizard guy is possessing Tenar's thoughts (about halfway through the book). The thoughts he forces on her are so seamlessly intertwined with her own thoughts, that you don't at first realize it's even happening. Once you realize what's happening, the realist style of writing actually makes the scene that much more awesome, because... well... it feels real. And it's scary. And because her own thoughts were so seamlessly mixed with those anti-women thoughts is interesting too... it definitely represents how women will internalize those misogynistic thoughts that a patriarchal society can create. How our minds can be taken over by this crap, and how it will turn against us in our own heads. That's a really powerful scene.. Anyway, I obviously ended up enjoying this book....more
This book reminded me that I can't love Ursula unconditionally. This is also proof that "my editor told me to write some new earthsea material" isn'tThis book reminded me that I can't love Ursula unconditionally. This is also proof that "my editor told me to write some new earthsea material" isn't a particularly good reason to write a book. This is some of the most uninspired writing I've read from Le Guin. The only good story in this collection was Dragonfly, which is (conveniently) the pre-story for the next earthsea novel. The Finder was vaguely okay; and it was interesting to learn a bit about the history of the school. Everything else was a waste of time: unengaging, uninspired writing. Sorry Ursula....more
This book is awful. There is much better and more compelling science fiction or fantasy out there; I can't believe people waste their time with this sThis book is awful. There is much better and more compelling science fiction or fantasy out there; I can't believe people waste their time with this stuff (after finishing the book, my internet googling informed me that there are 22 books in this series.....seriously....? Why....?). The writing isn't good, the plot is poorly conceived, most characters are less than one-dimensional (and the main characters are just barely one-dimensional), the main antagonists are spores that travel from a nearby planet (yep...); and the relationship between F'lar and Lessa was uncomfortable to say the least: is the fact that he is constantly grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her when she 'disobeys' supposed to be more acceptable than if he had hit her? 'Cuz it isn't....
However, there is a scene near the beginning of the book which highly reflects the Adam Eve myth: Lessa is newly at the weyr, she has just showered (and is portrayed as being born anew) and is sitting down to eat with F'lar. She goes to bite a round fruit (an apple?) but hesitates because she feels she's doing something wrong, and drops the fruit. F'lar then picks up the fruit and forces her to eat it. Afterwards, there is an uncomfortable description of F'lar forcing Lessa to eat a chunk of meat. (and hey: the narrator does refer to the sex between the two as "as good as rape"...that's something right?) Is this a subtle or quasi-feminist retelling of the Adam Eve myth? Maybe. But... considering all the misogyny in this book, I am probably just reading too much into it.
Save yourself the pain and anger and don't ever read this book....more