A Wizard of Earthsea

by Ursula K. Le Guin
Reviewed date: 2009 Apr 20
Rating: 2
183 pages
cover art

For years I've been hearing good things about the Earthsea books. I looked forward to reading them. It is a bitter disappointment to discover that Earthsea is stock fantasy. Le Guin's writing is good, as always, but the story excruciates my sensibilities and offends my reader's palate.

Let's take a look at our stock fantasy checklist. One point for each fantasy trope. A Wizard of Earthsea is set in

  1. a preindustrial world
  2. where magic is real.

Our hero is Ged,

  1. a young boy from a poor family,
  2. who has a preternatural gift for magic and spellcasting.

Ged is taken in by a

  1. wise old mage who tries to teach him maturity and humility.

But Ged runs away and attends the wizardry school on Roke Island, where he learns that

  1. everything has a true Name, and knowing a thing's name gives a person power over it.
  2. Ged's pride gets the better of him, and he nearly dies when he foolishly attempts to conjure the dead.

Ged survives but he is now hounded by a dark unnameable Shadow from beyond the realm of life. Ged spends years running from the Shadow. Finally, his old mentor tells him that to defeat the Shadow he must

  1. stop being the hunted and become the hunter.

Ged becomes the hunter, and confronts his unnamed Shadow. In a surprising twist of fate that everybody expected, Ged

  1. names the Shadow (everything has a name!)
  2. and the Shadow's name is Ged.


  1. there are dragons.

Oh help us.

Archive | Search