Saturday, September 3, 2011

Review of "A Wizard of Earthsea" by Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea is one of fantasy fiction’s most unique and endearing series.  The world she has created is vivid with culture, magic and mythos, the first installment of which is A Wizard of Earthsea.  The novel tells the coming-of-age story of Ged who must solve a riddle to find the hero in himself.  Throughout his transformation, Le Guin avoids most cliché fantasy tropes and renders a very refreshing human story written in simple, flowing prose.   

Set in a southeast Asian style archipelago, magic, ancient wisdom and dragons decorate the pages as Ged chases a shadow he's foolishly unleashed around the world.  But it is his wits that he must depend on the most to absorb the lessons he learns along the way and develop into a man in the process.  Filled with profound dialogue and touching characters, the story is geared towards young people, but undoubtedly adults can find something novel and worthy of note as well.  Eschewing Tolkien-esque fantasy, the fundamental ideology of the novel is Daoist in nature, with a dose of Jungian psychoanalysis thrown in for good measure.  

This book is highly recommended for those who are interested in knowing what a fantasy world influenced by the teachings of Daoism may be like, or, in a much simpler fashion, as a great way of introducing one’s children to the world of fantasy literature with a warm message at its heart.

(For those who have read the book and the Earthsea Cycle as a whole, you may be interested in reading a paper I wrote on its Daoist tenets and angles on contemporary theory called "Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle: Paralleling Contemporary Theory with an Eye to the Past".  Part I is here and Part II, here.)

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