Posts Tagged ‘The Earthsea Quartet’

Over the holiday I managed to read 4 books, but I am going to review them as one.

Books 21-24 – The Earthsea Quartet, by Ursula (K) Le Guin .  The Earthsea Quartet covers four books about the world of Earthsea – A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore; Tehanu.  The reason  I have decided to look at them together is firstly, that they were literally in one book so I didn’t focus too closely on the start and end points of each story, just read until I stopped!  Secondly, the stories follow on from each other with overlapping characters and it makes sense to me to look at them as one.

A Wizard of  Earthsea starts the story with Ged, a young boy from the island of Gont who discovers he is a skilled magician.  But with great skills, and the arrogance of youth, Ged sets free an evil that could change the whole world.

The Tombs of Atuan takes us to another part of Earthsea, where a young girl Tenar is chosen to be Arha, the Eaten One, Priestess of the Tombs.  Brainwashed and alone, when she discovers Ged in the tombs where men are prohibited, she risks the wrath of the Nameless Ones by letting him live – a choice that destroys her way of life.

The Farthest Shore introduces us to Ged as the new Archmage of Earthsea, who has to undertake a perilous journey with no companion but Prince Arren of the Enlades in order to learn why magic is being lost from the world.

Tehanu is the final book of the quartet and brings us back to Arha, and an Earthsea that is in a process of flux. She is now mother to two adult children but when she helps save the life of an abused child, Therru, she becomes a parent once again.  Meanwhile, Ged has spent his magic – but there is also a new power arising…

I really liked this quartet, as a whole.  I didn’t enjoy all the stories equally but as a collection it was a great world to explore.  The characters were complex and interesting, making huge mistakes and living with the consequences of that both physically and emotionally.  The magic was integral to the story, not additional.

Most importantly though, I really liked Le Guin’s writing style.  There is a spareness to it that I appreciated, and a quietness that I haven’t ever found in a fantasy series.  There is dialogue of course, but there’s more internal dialogue and description than verbal interaction. The world is created in layers, and as each area has a light shone on it, it becomes more textured, more vital and more real.

For people who are interested in fantasy this is a series I would definitely recommend; for anyone who is looking for a clean, intelligent and enhancing writing style these are definitely worth a look.  I know fantasy is not to everyone’s taste but this is not a ‘swords and sorcery’ type tale of dashing knights and vast armies; it is about balance, clarity and regeneration which is an entirely different reading experience.

Happy reading,




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