"The shapeless mass of darkness split apart. It sundered, and a pale spindle of light gleamed between his open arms. In the oval of light there moved a human shape: a tall woman...beautiful, and sorrowful, and full of fear." - from A Wizard of Earthsea, first in a tetralogy that includes The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore, introduces the listener to Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, known also as Sparrowhawk. When Sparrowhawk casts a spell that saves his village from destruction at the hands of the invading Kargs, Ogion, the Mage of Re Albi, encourages the boy to apprentice himself in the art of wizardry. So, at the age of 13, the boy receives his true name - Ged - and gives himself over to the gentle tutelage of the Master Ogion. But impatient with the slowness of his studies and infatuated with glory, Ged embarks for the Island of Roke, where the highest arts of wizardry are taught. There, Ged's natural talents enable him to surpass his classmates in little time. But when his vanity prompts him to summon Elfarran, the fair lady of the Deed of Enlad, he unleashes a shapeless mass of darkness - the shadow.
©1968 Ursula K. Le Guin; (P)1992 Recorded Books, LLC
I can't believe I didn't listen to or read this book sooner. Ursula K. Le Guin has rekindled my believe that fantasy can be a legitimate literary genre.
Charming and entertaining like a fairy tale but simultaneously dripping with the suspense, drama, and authenticity of a Viking Saga or Epic Poem, A Wizard of Earthsea (the first of the series) cannot be ignored by any serious fantasy reader. So much sub-par fantasy is written in this, age of World of Warcraft and Eragon, that it's refreshing to have Ursula K. Le Guin to discover and delight in.
The narrator of this book makes it sound like he is recounting an ancient tale around some campfire in the Iron Age. Amazing!
A Wizard of Earthsea is the first installment of Ursula K. Le Guin's classic fantasy. Having read the Earthsea novels (five in all, plus a collection of short tales) years ago, I was very happy with this audio version, which is beautifully done. Re-visiting Earthsea, it's interesting to notice how many of what are now conventions of fantasy writing were in fact pioneered by Le Guin so long ago.
One thing that's different about her books: the writing is beautiful but spare. She can tell you in a few paragraphs what other fantasy writers seem to need long chapters to explain. Each of the Earthsea books comes in at something around 200 pages, quite a contrast to the bloated tomes of so many contemporary fantasy writers.
Incredibly engaging, masterfully crafted, full of some of the best-written and most complex wizards you will find in literature, A Wizard of Earthsea is the fantasy genre at its absolute finest.
Those of us who read a lot of fantasy have read too many "kid goes to wizard school" books. Many are badly written with flat characters and predictable plotlines. Ursula Le Guin dazzles in this book, which though originally published in 1968, reads as fresh and new and inspiring as all great art does. The old fantasy archetypes are brilliantly and creatively revisited, and adventure abounds.
Anyone who loves fantasy will love Earthsea, and those who don't may find this an ideal introduction. Kids, adults, you name it, Earthsea is short, well-paced, suspenseful, epic, and a delight to read. This audiobook version is excellent.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
While Ursula K. Le Guin wrote several novels about the fantasy world of Earthsea, A Wizard of Earthsea appears to be the first of the main cycle by that name. I found it difficult to pin down whether the series is written for children and/or adults. I concluded that while there are a number of philosophical themes that adults could appreciate, the target audience was probably that of a younger age. Let’s say YAs.
Further, on the subject of age, this is basically the coming of age story of a young mage named Ged who is drawn to wizardry and develops into just that as the story unfolds. There’s much in the way of magic, spells and personal discovery along the way. However, as Ged learns, all of the power and might of of a wizard comes with a price. Wizardry is not for the faint-hearted nor is its magic lightly wielded by the ignorant or arrogant. Much of this is taught Ged by Ogion his primary mentor along with his own life’s little (and not so little) foibles in and around Earthsea. Does all this sound a bit familiar?
The monster of the story we learn is… uh, not so fast. That would be a major spoiler. And I believe the book is worth reading to discover that as well as the other things Ged learns along his way through apprenticeship and personal discovery. The book is very straight forward. That appears to be Le Guin’s style. After recently reading a bunch of China Mielville prior to Earthsea, the latter was a refreshingly, relaxing read. However, we probably should not be fooled by her simplicity. Contained within the pages are a depth and breath that can be easily missed if we’re not paying attention. What can I say; it’s obviously a classic and who could not recommend that.
I had forgotten how beautiful and spare LeGuin's writing can be. Here she's like a cross between Tolkien and Hemingway: lyrical, but no extraneous cruft.
I am a big fan of the performer/narrator, Rob Inglis, who can also be heard reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I was so happy to find more opportunities to listen to him read to me.
absorbing the deatail - i tend to speed read so as always listening to books ive read is a treat
the textured appreciation that one makes mistakes and pays for them
hard to say as it all fits togehter in such a balanced manner
not really; but i did feel the shared satisfaction of finally facing ones demons
Audible needs to present the missing books of the series asap
I first read this in the 70s. It was among the first fantasy novels I encountered, and hooked me into the gene. It was a delight to encounter it once again.
These days we tend to compare magic systems and world building, but when LeGuin was writing it was as one of the pioneers of modern fantasy. If it seems familiar at times, that would be because she helped to chart these waters. After 40 years, I had forgotten much of the story. To me, it still stands strong and tall on its own.
As this is an old school audio book, the narrator doesn't use character voices, and apparently didn't need to. His resonate deep voice carries the story along in a strong, clear, captivating tone.
There was a curious moment when out of nowhere came instructions to switch to the second cassette. But that adds to the old school charm of the book.
I would recommend this book to people who can enjoy a fantasy book for more than its action. It is appropriate for YA, with any dark elements being fairly tame. There is a coming of age element to the book. In fact, it has many delightful layers of elements to uncover if you choose to dig in. But some will want to know that there is not a significant love interest.
This is an archetypal story told much like a ballad from times of old. It is sparse yet full of detail at the same time. The narrator readsbeautifully, with feeling, pacing himself lovingly through the tail. I felt like I was a child again listening to my granddad. It is a wonderfully told story that I can't wait to listen to again.
I like scifi and urban fantasy. I don't like romance novels. If you are the same my reviews should help.
Yes, the book is as good as I remember as a child.
The whole world was memorable. Like revisiting an old friend after a long absence.
The range of voices could be better. More emotion could be added to the reading, although this may be due to the lyrical Tolkien-esque style of the writing.
This is a classic that I read as a child that still holds up. If you've never read the book or series you owe it to yourself. The pacing is slower than a lot of tradtional fantasy and it is still formulaic, but it works. It is more along the lines of Lord of the Rings than current faster paced novels. This is the novel that really popularized the use of true names as a magic system, for that alone it's a classic.
"Unbeatable fantasy classic"
I first read this 20 years ago and was moved to revisit it because of hearing the author, Ursula Le Guin, being interviewed on radio. She is still writing at 85, but I doubt she has bettered this magnificent book. The precursor of so much modern stuff - Harry Potter is built on its back! - but written with extraordinary sensitivity to language and character..
The hero is Ged the trainee wizard and the story is of his journey towards wisdom, the obstacles he encounters and the suffering he creates for himself through pride and the desire for fame and power. It is gripping as a yarn apart from its fascinating symbolism. I particular love the theme of self-encounter. His first mentor is Ogion, to whom he returns when he has reached rock bottom in his ability to fight the shadow. Ogion says simply:
'If you go ahead, if you keep running, wherever you run you will meet danger and evil, for it drives you, it chooses the way you go. You must choose. You must seek what seeks you. You must hunt the hunter.'
There is a whole philosophy of life in this, as it works itself out through the story.
I also love the setting of the archipelago called Earthsea, a mass of islands, inhabited by an island people whose knowledge is of the wind and the waves the sky, which is beautifully realised. And I also love the dragons! Any dragon lovers cannot afford to miss this book!
Rob Inglis's reading is adequate but it is really time we had an up-to-date version of this classic that includes all the four books in the quartet.
"Magic like it ought to be!"
This is a very thought-provoking read. Splendidly written and for once includes the responsibilities and consequences that come with great magical power.
I wish the 2nd and 3rd book were available on audible...
I was mesmerised.
"Loved the Earthsea series as a child..."
& I really like Rob Inglis as a narrator (his reading of Lord of the Rings is fantastic).
Really frustrated to find that the remaining books in the series aren't available. But still, it's one of the great fantasy works & beautifully read.
Enough good moments that I wouldn't want to spoil them for future readers.
Whereas Tolkien gives chapter & verse, allowing you to visualise as perhaps he imagined things, UKLG is more broad sweeps, allowing the reader / listener more scope for their own imagination.
Don't do it! Series was awful beyond belief.
Any chance of obtaining the rights & getting Rob Inglis in to finish recording the rest of the series?
"Proof that classic fantasy fiction is timeless"
Yes, definitely. It is a masterclass in story-telling. Le Guin builds a world whole and complete that is both engaging and
Vetch. A simple yet beautifully drawn character.
Vetch. Rob Inglis' choice of accent for the character suited him well. He captured the essence of his likable nature perfectly.
Yes. I generally listen to audio books on my walk to and from work (an hour each way) and found myself reluctant to stop when I reached work and sitting at home saying to myself "just one more chapter..."
I enjoyed this book, made me think of Terry Pratchett but without the catchy humor :-).
The narrator voice was ok. A shame I can't find part 2 or book 2 on audible.
The story moves faster than most fantasy novels, so it took a little getting used to. But once I got used to the pace I felt very comfortable in Earthsea. The idea behind the magic works perfectly and is perhaps the most satisfying account of magic I've ever read. This is one of the best audiobooks I've listened to as the speaker's classic English accent compliments the tone of the story perfectly. I highly recommend this audiobook. I just wish there were unabridged versions of the next two novels available on Audible!
This is one of those classic books that I wish I had first read as a child or teenager. As an adult, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.
I'll read it again as the narration was great. I suspect this is one of the books that gets better every time you read it.
Yes, I would. It became an instant favourite with me :)
The "bad guy"...
If really felt Ged's desperation and urgency during the quest...
I read/listened to this for the first time now that I'm in my thirties. I regret not reading it when I was a teenager.
"Grown up Potter"
Predating Harry Potter: a dense imagined world apart with wizards, the knowing ones who learn their craft, and one of them on a life-death mission. This one not an inherited mission but one embarked upon due to his own youthful mistake. Tje story is more grown-up, more symbolic, more moral. Thicker in atmosphere and detail, lasts longer in the imagination.
"out of this world"
Out of this world - excellent! great. story and good narration. Read it with joy.
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