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A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)
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Group Reads Discussions 2008 > "A Wizard of Earthsea" - Full Discussion *Spoilers*

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message 1: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Does this book deserve a spot on the "best fantasy of all time" shelf? What spoke to you? What didn't work for you? What do you think of the moral of the story?


Christopher | 899 comments I loved this book. One early passage gave me chills and after that I knew I was reading something special. It’s when Ged tries to read one of Ogion’s Lore books and he stumbles on a page on how to summon the dead. He initially can’t take his eyes off the text, but when he’s able to, he realizes he has been reading in a room that was totally without light, complete darkness. And there’s a shadow at the door... I almost jumped!! Rare for a book to elicit such a reaction from me.


Melanie | 925 comments Hmmm....I would have liked it a lot better if I had read it when I was younger. Although it is probably the trend setter, I found it way too predictable by following ALL of the classic coming-of-age fantasy tropes. Its lack of diversity and female characters bothered me too. (I know the time period it was written in impacts this.) Lastly, the character building was overtly narrated instead of inferred. That almost always bothers me.


message 4: by Ariana (last edited Jun 23, 2018 07:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ariana | 657 comments I read this as a teenager 20 years ago and remember really liking it. I still enjoyed it, but, as noted above, the lack of female characters stood out to me this time around (and the only one is pawn of evil?).

As far as tropes go, this reminded me of watching an old movie that was totally innovative for it's time, but doesn't seem as impressive today because so many movies since have copied those techniques and we're so used to them now that they seem tired.

I particularly noticed how much The Name of the Wind cribs from this one, specifically in the wizard school/university and it's masters (all men), conflicts with another rich, arrogant student, learning to call things by their true name, similar lack of female characters with any interiority, etc. I know people love The Name of the Wind, but I wasn't that impressed in a way I couldn't put my finger on at the time. Maybe this is why.


message 5: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Ariana wrote: "I still enjoyed it, but, as noted above, the lack of female characters stood out to me this time around"

UKLG fixed it in a later book, I think one of the newer editions has a great preface where she talks about this. Anyway, the longest story in Tales from Earthsea is about the women's role in the founding of the school on Roke, and magic in general. Hmm, maybe the preface I'm thinking about is in Tales. And from Tehanu onward, the woman's role is more important in all aspects of the world.


message 6: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
Yeah, women were conspicuously absent, but I did like that Ged was definitely dark skinned (with no reference to food names!!)

I think it bothered me less that there were very few women characters because so much of the book was basically Ged by himself grappling with what it means to die.

Absolutely agree that Name of the Wind pulled heavily from Wizard. For me, it was like if you'd read Wheel of Time and the Belgariad and then read Lord of the Rings. It felt like coming home, but to something much simpler and at the same time more profound than those it inspired.

Also, when I read this for the first time last year, I really, really needed something comforting, and this hit me right in the childhood feels. I could definitely see it feeling young, or being less impressive now that we are grown and have newer versions of this story.


Ariana | 657 comments Anna wrote: "UKLG fixed it in a later book, I think one of the newer editions has a great preface where she talks about this."

I would like to read this! I usually listen to audio books so I miss out on the front material. I wonder where else I could find it.

Anna wrote: "Anyway, the longest story in Tales from Earthsea is about the women's role in the founding of the school on Roke, and magic in general. Hmm, maybe the preface I'm thinking about is in Tales. And from Tehanu onward, the woman's role is more important in all aspects of the world."

Yes, I remember liking Tehanu a lot, I'm looking forward to revisiting it. I never did read Tales, so that's something else to look forward to.


Ariana | 657 comments Allison wrote: "I could definitely see it feeling young, or being less impressive now that we are grown and have newer versions of this story."

Sorry, I wasn't clear. I meant that I wasn't particularly impressed by The Name of the Wind because it seemed like it had drawn too closely from Wizard for me (as opposed to just being inspired by it).

Allison wrote: "It felt like coming home, but to something much simpler and at the same time more profound than those it inspired."

Yes, exactly!


message 9: by Allison, Fairy Mod-mother (new) - rated it 5 stars

Allison Hurd | 13034 comments Mod
OOH! I see, sorry. :) That also makes sense. In a way, I think I'm glad I read them backwards so that I didn't have the ability to be mad at Kvothe for not being Ged (even those he's pretty much Ged).


message 10: by Anna, Circadian heretic (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna (vegfic) | 9629 comments Mod
Ariana, I'm sorry I don't remember which book it was in, but I'm fairly sure it was Tales. But meanwhile, check out this article about the new documentary.


Ariana | 657 comments Anna wrote: "But meanwhile, check out this article about the new documentary."

Thanks for the link! Very interesting, makes me want to see the documentary.


AndrewP (andrewca) | 351 comments My problem with this book is that if you have ever seen, or read, Shakespeare's The Tempest, or seen the movie Forbidden Planet, you know the plot.


message 13: by Bruce (new)

Bruce (bruce1984) | 386 comments It's been more than a decade since I've read it, but it still sticks with me. The plot is one found in many other places, including major religions such as Stoicism and Christianity. But Le Guin tells it so well; the point is driven home in a manner that's hard to forget. I think it deserves it's place on the shelf.


Bobby | 869 comments I liked it a lot. I had a little trouble connecting with the characters at times, but the story was well told. I think my favorite part was the world building. The culture and history of the Archipelago was fun to read about. I look forward to more in the next books.

I will say I really liked the Afterword in the version I read. It was the kindle version, so I don't know if it is in all versions. It's really interesting to see her thought process. She mentions a little bit about how women are not featured prominently, and that she pretty much had to be subtle about the fact that most of the characters are not white. I noticed that the people of the Archipelago were described as copper skinned or red skinned, and that Vetch was much darker, but apparently at the time most people didn't notice.


message 15: by Beth (last edited Feb 15, 2019 08:18AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth (rosewoodpip) | 1685 comments Necropost ahoy! Perhaps not as impressive as reviving the thread from 2008...

I actually DNF-ed this a couple of times over the years, for different reasons. When I was "about the right age" for it I thought it was boring, and when I tried it again in my 30s, from the first chapter I thought the book's focus was going to be on Ged becoming the baddest wizard ever, dude, and said "no thanks." But that was also before I'd read any other Le Guin. I know better now. Who knew I'd finally be ready for this one in my 50s?

Melanie wrote: "the character building was overtly narrated instead of inferred. That almost always bothers me"

For me--and I think it's connected to what Melanie says here--it read like a summary. From when Ged leaves Roke to the end of the book is two or three years, and what, 125 pages? But I liked that style, it felt like oral storytelling, or like a fairytale.

Ariana wrote: "I particularly noticed how much The Name of the Wind cribs from this one"

I noticed that too, and wondered whether Rothfuss was responding to this book with NotW. But if so, why would he deliver near exactly the opposite message (imo). Power's a good in its own right! Overweening ego and pride is a-okay!

No one else has mentioned Vetch. I love him. But I always love "loyal friend" characters. :)


message 16: by Mary (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mary Catelli | 985 comments Oh, yes, Vetch!



Ged saw all these things from outside and apart, alone, and his heart was very heavy in him, though he would not admit to himself that he was sad. As night fell he still lingered in the streets, reluctant to go back to the inn. He heard a man and a girl talking together merrily as they came down the street past him towards the town square, and all at once he turned, for he knew the man's voice.

He followed and caught up with the pair, coming up beside them in the late twilight lit only by distant lantern-gleams. The girl stepped back, but the man stared at him and then flung up the staff he carried, holding it between them as a barrier to ward off the threat or act of evil. And that was somewhat more than Ged could bear. His voice shook a little as he said, "I thought you would know me, Vetch."

Even then Vetch hesitated for a moment.

"I do know you," he said, and lowered the staff and took Ged's hand and hugged him round the shoulders-" I do know you! Welcome, my friend, welcome! What a sorry greeting I gave you, as if you were a ghost coming up from behind– and I have waited for you to come, and looked for you-”



Michele | 1206 comments I love the little animal that keeps him company for a while - the otak, is it? I was sad when it left him :(


message 18: by Kaa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kaa | 1454 comments This is my third or fourth time reading Wizard as an adult - as a kid I was turned off by the lack of female characters and never finished it, but apparently that bothers me less now. As Allison says, I think the fact that the book is so focused on Ged's personal journey makes the lack of women less of a problem.

Allison, I also really appreciated this comment: "It felt like coming home, but to something much simpler and at the same time more profound than those it inspired." That is exactly what this book feels like to me, too. I was just commenting to someone else who was asking about the book that it is a comfort read for me because the themes are so familiar, but they are elevated by Le Guin's writing and thoughtfulness.

I also agree with Beth that it reads like oral storytelling, which I have to think is intentional, and is a major plus for me. And yes, Vetch is wonderful! I think his decision to accompany Ged on the final leg of the journey is actually one of the more surprising parts of the story because of the way it goes against the typical "one hero against the world" narrative. We may each have to face our deaths alone in the end, but the support of friends and community can make the journey there a little bit easier.


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