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A Wizard of Earthsea

(Earthsea Cycle #1)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  272,872 ratings  ·  11,359 reviews
Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.
Paperback, 183 pages
Published September 28th 2004 (first published 1968)
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David Leow This is a beautifully written book but it is not Harry Potter. Rowling's books are plot driven team based struggles while Le Guin's tales are woven ar…moreThis is a beautifully written book but it is not Harry Potter. Rowling's books are plot driven team based struggles while Le Guin's tales are woven around the metaphysical. If you have any interest in morality or spirituality you may find these books profound and deeply affecting. If not, Le Guin's books could well leave you feeling a bit bored.

For what its worth, below is the Guardian's and Le Guin's take on Harry Potter


Q: Nicholas Lezard has written 'Rowling can type, but Le Guin can write.' What do you make of this comment in the light of the phenomenal success of the Potter books? I'd like to hear your opinion of JK Rowling's writing style

UKL: I have no great opinion of it. When so many adult critics were carrying on about the "incredible originality" of the first Harry Potter book, I read it to find out what the fuss was about, and remained somewhat puzzled; it seemed a lively kid's fantasy crossed with a "school novel", good fare for its age group, but stylistically ordinary, imaginatively derivative, and ethically rather mean-spirited.(less)
Ami It's a "can read", not a "must read" (my opinion). A 10 years old heavy reader should get to reading it. A one-book-a-year reader shouldn't. Anyway, I…moreIt's a "can read", not a "must read" (my opinion). A 10 years old heavy reader should get to reading it. A one-book-a-year reader shouldn't. Anyway, It's not a lighthearted book. (less)

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Kat Kennedy
Oct 16, 2010 rated it liked it
If there were ever a time I'd curse my constant reading of Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance or YA lit, it would be now.

Because clearly, CLEARLY this is a fantastic book that deserved to be finished. Ursula K Le Guin is a phenomenal writer and whilst this book (up to what I read) wasn't absolutely perfect, it was enchanting. It was different, it was QUALITY.

Yet I didn't finish it because, thanks to the aforementioned reading habits, my ability to concentrate and enjoy quality literature has slip
Jeffrey Keeten
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
”The hunger of a dragon is slow to wake, but hard to sate.”

 photo Earthsea20Dragon_zps6ietclom.jpg
The Folio Society edition is superbly illustrated by David Lupton.

The boy is born on the island of Gont in the archipelago of Earthsea. This is a world infused with magic. Not everyone can control this magic, but those who know the right words and have a wizard soul can learn to utilize the power of the Earth to manipulate objects and events. The boy’s name is Duny; I can tell you that name because the name has no power over him. His
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it

"It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul."

This seemingly simple statement actually says a lot about the human nature - just as all the Ursula Le Guin's books that I've read so far seem to do.


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

Mark Lawrence
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rated this 5* from memory of reading the trilogy (as it then was) back in the late 70s.

My wife has taken to reading to our very disabled daughter (now 13) while I make up her medicines before bedtime (it takes a while, there are 8 drugs that need to be counted out between a 1/3rd of a pill and 4 pills, crushed, mixed with water, sucked into a syringe and administered through a tube that goes through the wall of her stomach!).

Anyway, A Wizard of Earthsea was a recent read, and listening to my w
Robin Hobb
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Do you ever re-read books that your long ago self loved? Do they stand up to time?

This one definitely does. I know it doesn't need another five star review from anyone, but if you are looking for a book to introduce a youngster to fantast, this is an excellent one. It has stood the test of time very well. The language is lovely, the challenges our young magic user must meet are solid ones, and while it hints of more adventures to come, it stands very well on its own.

Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it

How come Harry Potter is the publishing sensation of the century, and this is only a moderately popular cult novel? Life seems unfair sometimes, but I suppose that in a few hundred years it will all have sorted itself out. The ending is one of the best I know in any book.
Kara Babcock
This what A Wizard of Earthsea taught me:
* To know a thing's true name is to know its nature.
* Don't fuck with dragons (unless you know their true names).
* Summoning the spirits of the dead is a bad idea, especially on a schoolboy dare.
* Truly changing your form is dangerous, because you can become lost in the aspect you assume.
* If you find yourself hunted, turn it around and become the hunter.
* Above all else, know yourself.

I don't know how I acquired this particular copy of A Wizard of
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin is a beautiful fantasy.

First published in 1968, it has clearly influenced many fantasy novels since. Orson Scott Card, with his 1980s era Alvin Maker series, stated that he wanted to make an American fantasy, and escape or at least distinguish his work from the inherently English Tolkien sub-genre of fantasies. This is not quite such a departure from the Tolkienesque fantasies, but a difference can be seen and enjoyed.

Another Goodreads reviewer made th
J.G. Keely
As a reader of Fantasy, this book felt like a return home, even though I had never read it before. The tale of this young wizard and his hardships and coming to terms with his own darkness is one that has been redone again and again, from Rowling to Jordan to Goodkind, and so far, despite adding gobs of length and endless details, no one has managed to improve upon it.

Though she isn't the first to explore the Bildungsroman-as-Fantasy (Mervyn Peake precedes her), he was an author who eschewed sym
Sean Barrs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Here's an odd bit of trivia: I had just read Beagle's Last Unicorn this month, so it is still very fresh in my mind. I agreed with everyone that it was a real classic with so much to love within its pages.

And yet, right after reading A Wizard of Earthsea, I'm gonna have to say I think A Wizard of Earthsea is better. Not only better, but a lot more enjoyable, fascinating, and exciting!

Not by a lot, mind you, but enough that I can easily say that this Le Guin's classic is superior. :)

I hope this c
"A man would know the end he goes to, but he cannot know it if he does not turn, and return to the beginning, and hold that beginning in his being. If he would not be a stick whirled and whelmed in the stream, he must be the stream itself, all of it, from its spring to its sinking in the sea."

Three years ago I picked up my first Ursula K. Le Guin novel, The Left Hand of Darkness. I did so as part of a challenge to read a science fiction book, a genre in which I was not at all well-read. I didn’t
Leonard Gaya
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ged is a copper-skinned wizard who sails endlessly across the sea, from island to island, like Odysseus, across the Mediterranean, or rather like the hero Māui of Polynesian mythology, across the Pacific Ocean. However, there is something very original, an almost abstract quality, about this fantasy novel from the 1960s. It does not have the massive choral and dramatic dimension of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (1954), and it lacks the charming and childish mannerisms of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Pott ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
I’m reading these one at a time but I have that big ole chunker of a book with all the illustrations. I will add it at some point!

I enjoyed the book. I was pulled in at the beginning but it let some slack in a little later. I’m going to keep on with them because I do like it!

Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Oct 23, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Ashley Waldron
Shelves: 2010, fantasy
I can't believe I am giving a Le Guin book 2 stars, I have nothing but respect for this writer and her work, but alas, A Wizard of Earthsea was a chore to get through.

Frankly, I only enjoyed the very beginning and the very end of this story. What's in between is excruciatingly boring. A Wizard of Earthsea is an introspective book. What I mean is, it's all about one wizard's personal quest to overcome the dark entity - Shadow - that he unleashed during a youthful boasting about his magical power
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
So... this really wasn't for me!

I love fantasy and the overall story was good, the writing was beautiful (definitely helped me practice my english!) but I was so bored. Like REALLY bored. I ended up skimming a bit..

It reminded me of Uprooted - which I also didn't like! Also couldn't get attached to the main character due to the third person narration and how often months or years of his life were described in one sentence.

Will not continue the series.
Ahmad Sharabiani
A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, #1), Ursula K. Le Guin

The novel follows a young boy called Duny, nicknamed "Sparrowhawk", born on the island of Gont. Discovering that the boy has great innate power, his aunt teaches him the little magic she knows.

When his village is attacked by Kargish raiders, Duny summons a fog to conceal the village and its inhabitants, enabling the residents to drive off the Kargs. Hearing of this, the powerful mage Ogion takes him as an apprentice, giving him his
Apr 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recs, 2020
a dreamlike fantasy novel charting the coming of age of a wizard, born in a marginal land but destined to become great. written before works of fantasy became widespread, the novel hits most of the beats that came to define the genre, but quietly subverts others; most of the characters aren’t white, the land doesn’t much resemble England or continental Europe, war’s absent, community’s valued over individualism. Le Guin’s prose is tailored to the tastes of teens—simple, stark, sensuous—and in sp ...more
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I remember reading this book as a child and loving it, and that is all I can remember, the reading and the loving. Anything about the contents has slipped through the old grey cells somehow. As it turned out my brain knew what it was doing when it jettisoned all the details of the book so yesterday I was able to read it as if for the first time. Like A Virgin.

Nowadays any fantasy book that features a school of wizardry can not help but bring up Harry Potter comparisons (I can't help it anyway).
Bionic Jean
“In the Creation of Ea, which is the oldest song, it is said, 'Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.’”

“Back then, in 1967” Ursula Le Guin once commented, “wizards were all, more or less, Merlin and Gandalf. Old men, peaked hats, white beards. But this was to be a book for young people. Well, Merlin and Gandalf must have been young once, right? And when they were young, when they were fool kids, how did they learn to be wi
Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)
Read for the Earthsea readalong I'm hosting, #LeGuinAlong! More info here

Well this was a bit of an odd one. I both did and didn't enjoy it. This book definitely has the classic fantasy feel to it, with its lengthy descriptions and epic journeying. But I have to admit, the only thing motivating me to pick it back up again was my host role in the readalong. It took me two weeks or so to read a book only 170 page long, not because of anything outright bad, but it just seemed to miss the mark.

I wish I'd read this one as a kid. It's one of those books that crams an epic story in under 200 pages, sketching the world and the details and the action rather than spelling everything out. As a kid, you get lost inside of a book like that, and it seems the better for it (the closest comparison I can think of is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - I was shocked to re-read that and discover the "epic battle" at the end is about two pages long).

I can tell that's what UKLG was going for with t
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I couldn’t have chosen a better time to experience LeGuin’s reimagining of the story—pardon me, I mean The Story—which we weave into our lives and the lives of those around us. At 35, I’m not really old but I don’t often feel young anymore, and it’s only now that I feel like I am finally confronting my shadow and embracing who I am.

There are an infinitude of ways to reflect upon, analyze and understand our life experiences. But LeGuin provides a framework that is just right for me. Her telling o
Mar 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best, fantasy, faves
When I was in grade seven I had a Language Arts teacher named Mr. Hore (you can imagine the fun we had with that in junior high school). He noticed that I was a voracious reader, and that I was devouring fantasy books at the time, so he nudged me in the direction of his favourites: Ursula K LeGuin and Anne McCaffrey.

The nudging began in class with a LeGuin short story. I remember sterile white homes that were pre-fab pods, I remember odd, sci-fi-ish flora and a girl as the protagonist. I also r
picoas picoas
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

NB: read originally in the 80's. Project re-read.

“Only in silence the word,

Only in dark the light,

Only in dying life:

Bright the hawk’s flight

On the empty sky”

Yin & Yang?

I honestly don't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with reading and collecting books. I'd define childhood as a never-ending vacation. A weekend without a week following and reading-time everlasting. I still remember the never-ending days of my childhood. My first
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven’t read a fantasy novel in a while, and I wanted my mind to wander a bit in a world that isn’t ours. And this book delivers perfectly everything you want from the fantasy genre. It’s my first Le Guin and I am pleasantly surprised with her writing style. The writing style is somewhat unusual for this genre, but for me it works perfectly. It is simplistic in a way, clean and quiet, but still beautifully conveys the story and deeper message of the book.
I would classify this book as a coming-
Aug 25, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2021
3.5 stars

I’ve been wanting to start this series for the longest time and I’m glad I finally did. This book was written in 1969 and it’s certainly impressive for that time. I liked the main character, Ged, and his development was obvious by the end of the book. My main issue was with the writing: the prose, although pretty, was too much for me. There was a lot of description and narration and little dialogue. I’m not sure if it’s vain of me, but I would’ve enjoyed this book more if it was written
Sep 16, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: fiction, sff
The thing to remember about Earthsea, like all of LeGuin's writing, is that it is less fiction that it is Taoist parable. LeGuin is a philosopher cleverly disguised as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. Her writing is beautiful and languid; her characterization and plotting range from excellent to mediocre. But character and plot serve as a vehicle for the themes of balance, simplicity and serenity that infuse all of her works.

Earthsea is, on its face, a fantasy saga along the lines of Tolkien or Rowling.
Jul 02, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: left-unfinished
One of the first aphorisms of a creative writing class is "Show, not tell." Not that I don't believe in turning aphorisms on their heads, but this one is there for a reason. Le Guin, for the greater part of the book, just tells. It makes for a painful reading experience. Children's literature in the 21st century is not limited in its range of boy in fantasy realm turns amazing magic user, and so the dull setting, plotting and characterization of "A Wizard of Earthsea" is best left unread. In 196 ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"For magic consists in this, the true naming of a thing."
- Ursula K Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea


I rarely venture into YA fiction. Less often still do I pick up and read a book of fantasy. There are exceptions. When I trust the author, we I think there is art/beauty/originality lurking there, I will often venture into spaces and places I usually avoid. Ursula K Le Guin died last year and I started reading her bit by bit, largely focusing on her Hainish novels/cycle. I needed more women in my 20
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

Other books in the series

Earthsea Cycle (6 books)
  • The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2)
  • The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle, #3)
  • Tehanu (Earthsea Cycle, #4)
  • Tales from Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #5)
  • The Other Wind (Earthsea Cycle, #6)

Articles featuring this book

  Ellen Oh is an award-winning author of middle grade and young adult novels such as Spirit Hunters, The Dragon Egg Princess, and A Thousand...
54 likes · 6 comments
“It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.” 499 likes
“But it is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them.” 420 likes
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