A superb four-part fantasy, comparable with the work of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, the “Earthsea” books follow the fortunes of the wizard Ged from his childhood to an age where magic is giving way to evil. As a young dragonlord, Ged, whose use-name is Sparrowhawk, is sent to the island of Roke to learn the true way of magic. A natural magician, Ged becomes an Archmage and helps the High Priestess Tenar escape from the labyrinth of darkness. But as the years pass, true magic and ancient ways are forced to submit to the powers of evil and death.
I managed to not read Ursula Le Guin’s books as a child and a teenager. It was not until my student son read The Wizard of Earthsea and told me that I would love it, that at last I settled down with the book.He was right, I loved it and all the other Earthsea books. Why, oh why did I wait so long? Maybe because I wrongly thought of them as children’s books. They can be read by children, but an adult reader will get so much more from Le Guin’s writings. What makes Le Guin so special?Le Guin has a genius for world creation – Earthsea feels like somewhere I know and will know. Sometimes, as with my own fictional worlds, I come upon a place in this world which is Earthsea. Of course every reader will have a different Earthsea; Le Guin is brilliant at giving enough but not too much description so that we each can see our own vision. The same is true of the descriptions of her characters. I have an image of each, but what I remember tends not to be their physical appearance, but their thoughts, motives, loves and fears. For all Le Guin’s genius in world-making, she writes about humanity.
I love the way she is able to create fantastic worlds which allow her to explore big issues. In the Wizard of Earthsea, the first Earthsea book, the young hero makes an error of judgement and must face the consequences. In Jungian psychology all that we dislike and repress about ourselves is called our shadow. In order to be fully mature we must turn, face it and name it, something most of us fail to do. This happens quite literally in the Wizard of Earthsea. There are other similarly important themes in her other books.I had been a poet, playing with symbols and metaphors. Le Guin showed me that this was possible in a novel too and that it was possible to do this whilst telling a good story.
Ursula Le Guin inspired me to start writing novels. And she even provided the best book I know on writing – Steering the Craft.
This morning my new book Love of Shadows had its first review on Amazon and Goodreads. In it the reviewer says that she thought the series “similar to Ursula Le Guin’s books set in the fictional country of Orsinia”. I could not be more honoured by a comparison.