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251 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1968
A Wizard of Earthsea is a simple but beautiful and magical coming-of-age story of a young wizard Ged, who starts out as a brash and cocky boy who in his arrogance unwittingly releases a terrible Shadow upon the world, but who eventually grows up and succeeds in embracing the darker part of himself. A word of caution if you are expecting a traditional fantasy adventure - it is, more than anything, an introspective book, so be warned.
"You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do.------------------------------------------------------------
"You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.In her amazing brilliance, Ursula Le Guin takes what could have been a straightforward tale of the fight of good versus evil, and turns it into something more - a lesson in self-discovery and acceptance of the darkness that lives inside all human beings. This is a story about the fascination with knowledge and the temptation of power and dangers of presuming too much and upsetting the natural balance. It is a story about getting to know your own self, including the darkest corners of your soul. And the resulting epic battle of good versus evil... well, let me tell you that the resolution was brilliant and poetic, and I did not see it coming AT ALL.
“He knew now, and the knowledge was hard, that his task had never been to undo what he had done, but to finish what he had begun.”Ursula Le Guin takes the elements that would be a dangerous set-up for fail in the hands of most other writers and somehow unexpectedly turns them into the strengths of this book. Take the characters - except for Ged, they exist only as sketches to support the ideas in this story; it's not supposed to ever work but it does. She brushes over the years of Ged's life and training in just a few words, not detailing the tedium as many writers are prone to doing. Her worldbuilding is not very detailed, but manages to capture the essence of this world in a few
If you go ahead, if you keep running, wherever you turn you will meet danger and evil, for it drives you, it chooses the way you go. You must choose. You must seek what seeks you. You must hunt the hunter.
"Listen, I don't understand: you and my brother both are mighty wizards, you wave your hand and mutter and the thing is done. Why do you get hungry, then? When it comes suppertime at sea, why not say, Meat-pie! and the meat-pie appears, and you eat it?"See what I mean? Genius! The magic in the Earthsea universe is based on the "words of power" and "true name" idea. "One who knows the true name of an object has power over it." is fairly self-explanatory, this applies to people's names also; giving someone your true name is a little like giving them your Paypal password, not something to be done lightly.
"Well, we could do so. But we don't much wish to eat our words, as they say. Meat-pie! is only a word, after all... We can make it odorous, and savorous, and even filling, but it remains a word. It fools the stomach and gives no strength to the hungry man."