A Wizard of Earthsea, and why books for young people don’t have to be shit

After a few lukewarm readings of her short stories, I hadn’t really bothered with Le Guin for a few years, but I’m trying to rectify that. The Lathe of Heaven was a great read, and this most recent outing was also well worth the time. A Wizard of Earthsea might easily be classified as YA were it published today, and while it lacks some of the complexities found in her more adult-oriented work, it is by no means simple.

Characters are wonderfully filled out and develop well -Le Guin shows up with some very strong prose that communicates both emotional and external realities, but the pacing of events and the progressions of characters’ personal story arcs are clearly the focus. The sentences get out of their own way, but still turn some good phrases, just never in any kind of distracting way.

While I certainly enjoyed the read (and it was a welcome respite from some heavier tomes) I’m sure it would have made a much greater impression had I read it at a younger age. When I compare this book to other YA fantasy, to other examples of world building and magical narratives, it does exceptionally well. It’s better written than most, it’s internally consistent, and it’s got a narrative arc that keeps dragging you in. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than reading a book like this.

Recommendation: Read it! If you have kids, read it to them.

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2 comments

  1. I agree with your analysis. I will assert that if you want those “complexities” of hers press on to the third book of the series, The Farthest Shore. (Don’t skip over The Tombs of Atuan, though.)
    I think it’s interesting that the series began as YA, but starting with the fourth book, Tehanu, it is aimed at folks who, like Ged, have entered middle age.

    Liked by 1 person

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