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(Annals of the Western Shore #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  9,160 ratings  ·  876 reviews
Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability—with a glance, a gesture, a word—to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young pe ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 286 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by Harcourt (first published September 1st 2004)
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Goodreads Censors Books nearly any good work of fiction, comments on society does that, by definition. so look up a list of best sf and fantasy and go from there. (I say "nea…morenearly any good work of fiction, comments on society does that, by definition. so look up a list of best sf and fantasy and go from there. (I say "nearly any good work of fiction" because a writer like Borges didn't have any interest in that.) (less)
A I read it as a standalone book and while I enjoyed it (3 stars) the whole book felt like the first chapter of a larger work.

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Dear Ursula Le Guin,

You've given me many gifts over the years, and I cherish them all, so it is fitting that your most recent gift is a book of the same name. I know it is not the favourite of many of my friends who love your work too, and I don't know if I can even call it a favourite, but I accepted Gifts from you at the perfect time, much as I've accepted your other works.

When all my fantasy worlds were filled with too obvious expressions of god vs. evil, and I was struggling with the binar
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading several books by Ursula K. Le Guin and a little more about her and her writing, I think that she may not be capable of writing a bad story, perhaps not capable of writing a bad sentence.

Gifts, her 1999 novel, has tone and imagery reminiscent of Anne McCaffery or Robert Silverberg. The gifts she described, powerful spell-like traits associated with a family or lineage call to mind the knacks Orson Scott Card invents in his Alvin Maker series – though those powers seem to appear spo
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Marija
Shelves: ya, 2011, fantasy
Gifts is a hard sell as a teen fantasy novel. Why not market it in the same vein as A Wizard of Earthsea I wonder?

As all Le Guin's books, Gifts is deeply philosophical and introspective. It is preoccupied with exploring what it means for a person to have a dangerous, potentially lethal ability. To give some frame of reference, think Graceling with Katsa's constant fretting about her killing Grace minus action, angsty teen romance and pseudo-feminist propaganda plus more depth and better knowled
Aug 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: All LeGuin fans/Everybody who thinks Fantasy is stupid.
Shelves: fantasy
With the recent publication of the third volume of the Annals of the Western Shore, I decided to go back to the start and re-read the first two and follow it up with the latest.

Gifts is the first book. It is narrated by Orrec Caspro son of his clan's leader. The clans of the uplands have uncanny powers, Gifts, at least if the family blood runs true, but Orrec's mother is not of the clan or even of the Uplands where the clans lead their isolated impoverished existence, feuding and farming. Orrec'
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am maybe a bit disappointed but that is more of my fault than Ursula's.Since it's fantasy coming of age story I expected something along the line of Wizard of Earthsea and Gifts isn't that nor is it trying to be.There isn't much of a plot line or world building in this book instead it's focus is on Orrec's growing up and on politics and struggles within small community. It's not flashy or philosophical book but it's small piece of world is well fleshed out.It's warm, unpretentious and very sat ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
Ursula LeGuin's book 'Gifts' is written with exceptional intelligence and a parable-like lyricism. If it wasn't for the subject matter, it would be as musical as dreamy poetry in prose form. It is a coming-of-age story beautifully rendered.

'Gifts' is about a patriarchal society, isolated and under the dying suns of inbreeding, tribalism and island culture. No one can read or write except the captured lowland women and children used as slaves and wives. When permitted, they teach the mountain fo
May 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Gifts is a quiet story, in the way that Ursula Le Guin can do really well: those moments of silence, introspection, contemplation. It isn’t my favourite of her books, but I love the things she explores here: the longing of parents to see their children succeed; love within families; grieving and loss; trying to choose the lesser evil… Orrec’s voluntary blindness and the way it affects the world around him, his fears and his wants, are beautiful; Canoc is a wonderful portrait of a difficult man: ...more
J. Wootton
Le Guin is one of the few authors I'll always look up at a used-book store; that's how I found Gifts.

Solid, quiet fantasy, excellently written, though told at some distance of time and emotion. Edges rather toward parable than lifelikeness. Good and Important, but not Great; yet still Recommended, for the parable - about the pressures that cultures of inheritance place on upcoming generations - is a strong one that stays with you.

None of us can choose the circumstances of our birth or upbringi
Joseph Delaney
If you like Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘Earthsea’ novels you will probably like these three books, which form the ‘Chronicles of the Western Shore’: ‘Gifts’, ‘Voices’ and ‘Powers’.
The magic differs from the world of the Earthsea wizards. The first book, ‘Gifts’ is about a
number of isolated communities each led by a person who has one of the gifts, which they wield to
protect their communities. One gift is called ‘Unmaking’ and it literally kills people by destroying
their internal organs or bursting them
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. Beautiful. UKL's use of the English language is without equal or parallel. Not a word wasted. Not an idea wasted. Simple, efficient, and yet touching and thoughtful. I don't know how she does it.

How fortunate that I read Gifts during the Christmas season, when we in western culture are too often focused on the wrong "gifts" in our lives. Gifts is not a book about Christmas or the Christmas season, but the parallels are unmistakable. Of course the other themes are all there ... a paren
Apr 22, 2010 rated it did not like it
What was I supposed to think when I picked this up? I hardly ever actually look inside the book and read the first page or first chapter. It's always the cover and blurb on the back of the book that makes me want to read it.

Maybe I should start reading the first page or chapter from now on?

It's written by Orrec's point of view, and when I say written, I pretty much mean exactly that. It's like an autobiography. Orrec, to me, comes across as a bit of an emo person. The way he talks about his life
Lost Planet Airman
A coming-of-age tale in a land reminiscent of Scotland with mystic powers. Orrec and Gry come from Upland families with powers, but cannot, or will not, use theirs.

Monopoly move as a YA book; contributes to B-ward readings by UKLG.
Apr 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-series
It took me a bit to get back into UKLG's slow pace where plot is second to philosophical thoughts and beautiful prose. Once I got the right mind-set I thoroughly enjoyed this coming of age story of a boy who probably has the gift of undoing (which is a more poetic term for killing) but is too afraid of what this could do to himself to practise it.

A very thoughtful story about what we expect of ourselves and what others expect of us and how we try to shape our life between those two forces.
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was a little bit disappointed when I had heard that this recent book from LeGuin was a ‘children's book' – but I needn't have worried. It's just another one of those publishers' marketing ploys. This is definitely a story that can be appreciated by readers of any age.

It's a very bleak story, in many ways. It tells of two young people in a remote, backwards society. Life is harsh, they're dirt-poor, inbred, always violently feuding over the slightest of pretexts – and to make things worse, each
Juho Pohjalainen
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Witch-clans being passive-aggressive and occasionally active-aggressive at one another. It's a mellow, low-stakes story about a single life or two - I liked it fine when I read it, but I suspect it was a little unremarkable in the end since I can't seem to be able to find many things to talk about it after the fact. ...more
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Orrec is born into a Gifted family in the Uplands. Although his family controls a fey and unsettling Gift, they are nevertheless barely able to eke out a life from their sparse and rocky land. The Gifted families raid each other for the few resources that remain: livestock, wood, serfs. Cut off from the rest of the world by a combination of shunning and pride, the people of the Uplands grow more stunted and inbred with every generation.
Unable to find a wife among his own people, Orrec's father
I love Ursula Le Guin's writing a lot. Gifts is a YA book, technically, but it doesn't have to be just for young people. It's a lovely story, like a fairy tale, and it's very easy to read, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading for people who are older. The main character is a young boy, but the emotions of other characters, like Orrec's father, are there and it's important to understand them and try to identify with them. And Ursula Le Guin's writing is simple and lovely, easy to read but ...more
Rachel Leonard
Sep 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
I didn't find this book compelling, maybe I should have read Voices first. Reading the premise at the library, I was interested.

"Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability--with a glance, a gesture, a word--to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two y
Sep 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this, found it interesting and compelling reading, and quite moving at certain points. LeGuin's prose is as lucid and sharp as ever, though I think to get the full impact of Orrec's story, you need to read Voices as well. ...more
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to gio by: Lys
"Stories are what death thinks he puts an end to. He can't understand that they end in him, but they don't end with him."

Okay, so...I would have never read this book if it wasn't for Lys. I read the whole Earthsea series last year and was actually disappointed by it, so I didn't think I would pick up something by Le Guin so soon. Now, after reading Gifts, I think that the Italian translation played a key role in my huge Earthsea disappointment.

I have to admit that I really liked Le Guin's writi
Kat  Hooper
Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Usually I love an Ursula Le Guin novel, but I just couldn't get into Gifts. The writing is beautiful, as we expect from Le Guin (therefore 4 stars), but I found this novel too dull for me.

Most of the story is told by Orrec as it happened in the past (a technique I just couldn't appreciate), and he relates several stories that his mother told him. Orrec and his best friend Gry live in a culture where magical gifts are used for destructive purposes and they
Ben Nash
This one has a slow start, making me wonder how well it'll work for young adults. In the beginning we're introduced to Orrec as a boy made blind by his father. As the book progresses, we see vignettes over the course of his early years, preparing him for the development of his gift.

Having just finished I Am Number Four, Gifts made a good contrast. I Am Number Four is more fast-paced, but there are so many little holes and a general lack of attention to detail. With Le Guin, we get a fully develo
Jenny (Reading Envy)
A new YA book that seems to start a new series(?) - the second book is Voices, which I'm reading next. In the Uplands, all families pass down certain gifts to their children. Some are positive, some are destructive. Two good friends choose not to use their gifts, and have to try to find a way to live in the society without them. It seems like a commentary on violence as well as an interesting story. I found myself seeing it vividly in my mind, which doesn't happen all of the time. ...more
Jul 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I love that Ursula Le Guin doesn't condescend to her audience. Her prose is just as beautiful here as in her adult books. Her characters are just as individual, and the story is just as compelling. I would have liked the plot to have a little more drive, but with so many other lovely things, I can forgive that.

The story centers on a young man with a "gift" inherited from his father. Gifts are talents that follow bloodlines from father to son, and mother to daughter. Gifts can be used as weapons,
Ai Miller
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this--the book was short and FLEW by, but the pacing never once felt off. It was good to read a young YA book for a change, and the story was compelling and interesting. (view spoiler) Otherwise I really enjoyed this book, and I am looking forward to starting the next one! If you want a quick and very satisfying read ...more
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, teen-ya-plus
A delightful fairy tale made of fairy tales with a message. Le Guin's prose soars.

7 of 10 stars
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
A very well-written, engaging short novel; my only complaint is that it felt more like a prelude to a story than a story proper.
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Life is harsh in the northern uplands where Orrec Caspro grows up. The climate is cold. The farmers and serfs scratch an uneasy living out of indifferent soil. The land-owning families that lead them are divided by vicious feuds. And the most powerful among them, honored with the title Brantor, wield terrible powers. One family's gift is calling to animals, which can be helpful when you're training a horse or a dog, but is oftener used to deadly effect—in the hunt. And that's one of the milder g ...more
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Overall I enjoyed the story of Gifts and the issues and questions Le Guin raises through it. It was a bit hard to get into at first because everything in Orrec's life seemed so bleak - from the mostly destructive gifts themselves and the implied poverty and harsh way of life to his stoic father. However, after the setting is established I realized that I was very invested in the characters of Orrec and Gry.

One of my favorite takeaways from the book was the concept of restraint. Although you may
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow. This was a pretty powerful book for YA, but I didn't really expect anything less from Le Guin.

The clans of the Uplands are rumored to have powers, and Orrec knows it's true because he's part of it. His family has the power of unmaking -- looking at something and undoing its very essence, a dangerous power for those who can't control it, to be sure. The story follow Orrec as he grows up in this world of rival clans with different powers, ones that are threatened but rarely used against one a
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Beyond Reality: Gifts -- Finished Reading ***SPOILERS!** 5 19 Jul 19, 2017 11:56PM  
Play Book Tag: Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore, #1) – Ursula LeGuin - 4 stars 1 10 Sep 10, 2016 10:51AM  
Class of 2015: Gifts 1 6 Mar 26, 2014 09:44PM  
Blind YA fantasy? 3 25 Dec 16, 2013 01:54AM  

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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

Annals of the Western Shore (4 books)
  • Voices (Annals of the Western Shore, #2)
  • Powers (Annals of the Western Shore, #3)
  • Annals of the Western Shore

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