Book title: A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Winter is already upon us and what better time than this to curl up under your fuzzy blankets and read as much as possible? You can of course add a cup of warm tea or hot chocolate in order to make this atmosphere a perfect one.
I decided to do so with one of the books that I bought this summer, a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time because I always considered it one of the reference books among the fantasy genre. It also has some very good ratings on Goodreads and that was another nudge for me to read it as fast as possible. So, I was very excited when I finally managed to purchase it but unfortunately the summer holiday kept me busy with other things and only now did I manage to read it.
One of the things that surprised me right from the start was finding out that this book was first published in 1968; I don’t know why I had no idea that it was published so many years ago and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that.
As you can probably imagine after reading the title this book is the story of a wizard. He will go by the name of Sparrowhawk, but his true name you will discover for yourself while reading the book. I really enjoyed the fact that names were a pretty important part of the story; the author underlined all through the book the importance of names and how by knowing someone’s true name you have a certain power over them – I really like this literary motif (and it also reminded me a little bit of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, another one of my all time favourites).
“To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
The book introduces us to the magical Earthsea world, a very interesting and quite big world. There are some maps through the book which will help you understand the background of the story better, each of them showing you the setting of a certain event. It’s very refreshing to read about such a versatile world, to hear about each region and to perceive the differences among people, based on their cultures and traditions; it reminded me of our real world, but of course, Earthsea has that little spark of fantasy (also I was very happy to find a region with a name similar to my own – The Andrades; so I decided that shall be the name of my personal fictional kingdom from now on)!
We follow around the story of the main character and basically his coming of age. It becomes quite obvious that this first book is only the beginning of Sparrowhawk’s destiny, so what you’re about to read is just a small part from a bigger picture. Even from the start he is a promising child. His aunt has magical powers, she is a witch, but her powers are somehow limited and she can only accomplish somehow simple tasks; she soon discovers that Sparrowhawk also has powers but greater than hers. She tries to teach him as best as she can but at some points she feels overwhelmed and sense a greater capacity in him so she decides to find him a master who can guide him properly through the art of wizardry. This doesn’t prove t be an easy task, as Sparrowhawk is a fast learner and a talented wizard-to-be, but he is also immensely curious and his curiosity will also be his doom and bring him a certain degree of sorrow.
His path is a perfect example of why sometimes we have to take things in small batches and not hunger for more or all of it; sometimes we are not ready yet to see the whole, we are ready to see only one facet, and if we are presented with the whole we realize it is beyond our powers to actually deal with it. Also, we must know our limits and see what we can and cannot do. It is good to challenge oneself and that surely leads to personal development but we can learn from Sparrowhawk’s story that everything must be balanced in over to actually obtain a satisfying outcome of it. After all, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
“From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.”
The book is a very simple one (which some would argue that is one of the downfalls of this book and in my opinion maybe the only one), there is basically just one narrative line and there are not many characters. But, as I have found from my own experience, most of the time the simplest things are the most genuine ones. The most truthful. It’s the same case with this book. The writing is inspiring and it is definitely a catchy one, especially as the main character is easy to love despite his obvious flaws; but somehow this book manages to warm you up from the inside and just gives you that fantasy-feeling, or at least that was the case for me. As I said at the beginning of my review, I think we should also take into consideration the year this book was written – I feel that is a very important aspect, and that for the year 1968 this is just an amazing and impressive book.
I really enjoyed reading this and I definitely plan to finish the whole series as soon as possible. I had high expectation from Ursula K. Le Guin and I wasn’t disappointed. In a very intriguing way this book gave me hope and I think that just made me love it even more. I would recommend it to all the fantasy lovers out there or to those who haven’t tried the fantasy genre before – I think this book will prove a very good start. Have fun reading!
“It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.”