A Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968. Read it and you’ll see that J. K. Rowling borrowed a *surprising* number of its key elements for her Harry Potter series. That said, this and the other Earthsea books struck me as covering a more inventive magical universe. The writing and dialogue are also much better.
It’s interesting to compare the magic in both series. Earthsea magic has less flash and more substance. Potter magic is flashy and occasionally illogical. You can also say the same things about their respective plots.
The Wizard of Earthsea is unconventional. For example, most of the characters are not handsome caucasians and the universe is not some variant of the England of the Middle Ages. Again, it’s interesting to compare this with the Potter series which is quite conventional. And while this book is progressive, the Potter books promote the last acceptable prejudice, that being the one against the overweight. Nice one, J.K.
Earthsea series is now my favourite sci-fi/fantasy series and I’d rank it second only to my favourite series of any type, the Hornblower books. That’s high praise.
After starting this book, I listened in every spare moment and promptly downloaded the next book as soon as I finished this one. I did the same with the second one. All the books are excellently narrated by Rob Inglis, btw.
I highly recommended this and the other two Earthsea books Audible carries. I only wish Audible had the last three books in series.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) is a heroic fantasy classic, telling the tale of the growth of Ged, the future Archmage of Earthsea, from a proud and reckless boy hungry for knowledge and power to a young man at peace with himself. Written with poetic concision and grace, Le Guin's novel depicts compelling events in an other world with more thought, imagination, philosophy, and care than the majority of the bloated heroic fantasy novels these days can begin to muster. Her convincing depiction of a fully realized secondary world, Earthsea, complete with legends, traditions, songs, tales, different cultures and environments, and well-thought out and philosophically consistent and cool system of magic, is impressive, especially given how short her book is.
Although the short novel adheres to some genre traditions, as in, for instance, depicting the maturing of a hero through adversity and adventure with female characters playing subordinate roles as flawed teachers, beautiful temptresses, or cute supporters ("weak or wicked as woman's magic"), it also performs (especially given its era) some remarkable subversion and expansion of the genre, as in making Ged and his fellow Archipelagans people of color, depicting a school for wizards with different types of magic to be mastered, and rendering the climactic struggle as something much more interesting and meaningful than a struggle between the hero and an external evil monster.
And Le Guin's prose is a taut pleasure, every sentence being comprised of the perfect words in the perfect order with the perfect syntax and punctuation and rhythm, so that the book may be re-read multiple times, each time with a new appreciation. This is so whether she is describing characters ("He grew wild, a thriving weed, a tall, quick boy, loud and proud and full of temper") or settings ("Now the dark forest-crowned cliffs gloomed and towered high over his boat, and spray from the waves that broke against the rocky headlands blew spattering against his sail, as the magewind bore him between two great capes into a sound, a sealane that ran on before him deep into the island, no wider than the length of two galleys"), or voicing wise aphorisms ("Heal the wound and cure the illness but let the dying spirit go"), or evoking horror ("So it came over the sea, out of the Jaws of Enlad towards Gont, a dim ill-made thing pacing uneasy on the waves, peering down the wind as it came; and the cold rain blew through it") or epiphany ("In that moment Ged understood the singing of the bird, and the language of the water falling in the basin of the fountain, and the shape of the clouds, and the beginning and end of the wind that stirred the leaves: it seemed to him that he himself was a word spoken by the sunlight").
Some words about the audiobook read by Robert Inglis. I have twice listened to Inglis' definitive readings of the entire The Lord of the Rings and think he is ideally suited for Tolkien's masterpiece, giving them their necessary gravitas, pathos, suspense, humor, and beauty (including effectively doing different voices for the different characters—his Gollum, Gandalf, Frodo, and Sam are all perfect—engagingly singing the different genres of songs, and so on). However, perhaps because I first listened to Harlan Ellison's over-the-top but entertaining reading (in which he shouts, screams, whispers, sighs, sobs, sings, laughs, lectures, or just reads, endowing key words with special weight or particular pauses with extra pregnancy), Inglis sounds here a touch pale, thin, and tired. Or is it that Le Guin and Ellison are American, Inglis British? Whereas Ellison's version brought out different aspects of A Wizard of Earthsea that I hadn't noticed before, Inglis' version felt more routine. Mind you, Inglis is an excellent, professional reader, and Ellison's version is no longer available on Audible.
Anyway, people who like philosophical, poetic, concise, and original fantasy should read Le Guin’s Earthsea books, beginning with this one.
the earthsea is a wonderful workd of ordinary people and amazing powers. A true delight for the imagination.
I spent the first half of this book waiting for character development - it was only when I realised that I wasn't going to get any that I actually started to enjoy the story.
I appreciated the simplicity of this tale. I will be coming back to this series when I have children old enough to appreciate it as a bed time story.
I don't want to spoil anything, suffice to say my favourite scene involved a dragon.
If this were made in to a movie I would go and see it. I think it would be difficult to fit everything in to one movie as the story covers so many small adventures without really delving into anything with much detail.
This is the sort of story I would read to my kids at bed time because it's just that, a story. There isn't much in the way of a complicated plot, in depth characters or intricate character relationships - it's just a nice story.
I would have enjoyed this a lot more knowing what I was getting in to.
Rob Inglis brings anything he reads to life in a spectacular way. and this book was already bursting with life all its own. I highly reccomend this book to any and everyone who enjoys High Fantasy.
I was in elementary school when I first got the Tombs of Atuan on cassette from the library. A Wizard of Earthsea is an even better book, and I'm truly happy to have it to listen to whenever I want. As the main character grows, he learns to balance his desire for power with the need to use it responsibly, and to understand the consequences of his actions before taking them.
It's a very classic coming-of-age story and the setting is immense, rich and powerful.
This recording was not re-done for audible, it is the original Recorded Books cassette recording, including the directions to change cassettes every so often. That's rather jarring, because it's a good 30 seconds of gap here and there with the "please fast forward to the end of the cassette before loading the next one..... A Wizard of Earthsea, Cassette X"
I really wish they'd edited this better to remove those. Just a small touch that really would have made the book more enjoyable to listen to. The story itself is a classic, but for audio, the listening experience matters a lot. That definitely takes it down a notch.
I use this story with my English 9 class, not just because it fits so well with my curriculum, but because it is such a good story. I first read it as part of my children's lit class in university and found myself enjoying it so much I read the remaining books in the series just for fun.
I enjoy mostly classics, sci-fi, and sci-fi classics
This is a fantastic adventure of magic, dragons, gods and demons, told in a soft, staid tone. It really feels like you're sitting by a fireside listening to this fascinating old wizard recount tales of his youth. And Inglis' narration is perfectly suited for this.