Kirsten's Reviews > Tehanu

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin
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Dec 28, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, fiction
Read from December 24 to 27, 2010

The Earthsea tetrology culminates, in my mind, in this book, so I will review all four together.

A Wizard of Earthsea was in my mind a rather brief and simplistic start to a series that plunges deep into questions of good and evil, life and death, and existence itself. Some reviewers trivialise the series as Buddhist philosophy disguised as fantasy, and while the root values of Le Guin's secondary world are essentially Buddhist (as far as I understand these matters, which is not very), she creates a compelling and very rich world filled with realistic characters and moments of delight in things magical or mythological that great fantasy provides. In the first two books I felt that Le Guin was interrupted in the middle of a thought by deadlines or restriction on how many pages a children's book ought to have and as a result the conclusions of both felt abrupt and unsatisfying.

However, I was happy to discover that the third and fourth book carry the same stories further and allow them to dig deeper and explore consequences of Le Guin's magical inventions. While many people say that Tehanu is their least favourite of the four, I thought it was my favourite. It is a feminist book, but it does not sacrifice a good story for a moral message. On the contrary, the message is made all the more poigniant by the story being so moving and, at the end, so eucatastrophic, to borrow a word from Tolkien. It felt like the ultimate culmination of the previous three books, and, although the action is limited and the plot took a long time to make itself apparent, I enjoyed reading Le Guin stretching her artistic talents for describing daily life in a different world and was happy to sit back and let her take her time with this book.

While this book didn't move me in the profound way I had hoped from one of "Tolkien's worthy inheritors" (to paraphrase Professor Michael Drout), it was an excellent piece of writing and an exceedingly enjoyable and immersing story. I am happy to have read one of the series that led the way for future generations of female sci-fi and fantasy writers.
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