A Wizard of Earthsea
Reviewed date: 2009 Apr 20
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
- a preindustrial world
- where magic is real.
Our hero is Ged,
- a young boy from a poor family,
- who has a preternatural gift for magic and spellcasting.
Ged is taken in by a
- 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
- everything has a true Name, and knowing a thing's name gives a person power over it.
- 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
- 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
- names the Shadow (everything has a name!)
- and the Shadow's name is Ged.
- there are dragons.
Oh help us.