Today, we will be reviewing the classic fantasy novel, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. It a story of a coming of age wizard named Ged who learns magic and what it means to be a wizard. Keep reading for our review of the novel and to find out to see if you should read it next!
A Wizard of Earthsea
The novel starts off on a small island called Gont and we follow Duny as he learns magic. He is given the nickname Sparrowhawk. He helps the town fight off an invasion using magic and that leads to a wizard named Ogion visiting them and taking Duny as a student.
Ogion gives Duny his true name – Ged and teaches him magic in his own way. But Ged yearns for more and when he Ogion catches Ged trying a spell he found in one of Ogion’s books, he sends Ged to Roke, an island that is a school for wizards.
On the island, Ged learns magic and shows that he is a talented wizard. But when he does a spell that leaves him bedridden, his confidence wavers. Ged has released a shadow creature and now the shadow creature pursues Ged, wanting to take control of his body.
It is up to Ged to amend his mistake and destroy the shadow creature that he released onto the world. But he has no idea how to go about it. Can Ged face an enemy that is feared even amongst wizards?
This was Guin’s first attempt at writing a fantasy novel. She was asked to write a fantasy novel for teenagers and Guin thought about what a story involving a young wizard would look like. Guin’s novel was not your typical fantasy novel as she avoided writing about a war and the protagonist of her novel was a person of color, something that was uncommon in the 1960’s.
This novel and the Earthsea books have influenced works, some which we may never actually know about. A novel about a boy wizard going to school is always going to make people think of Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. But Guin’s novel did it first.
The magic system in A Wizard of Earthsea is based on knowing the true name of a person or thing. That idea has showed up often since then. One popular work many people will recognize is Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki.
I loved the ideas and magic system of the novel a lot. There is a lot of attention to detail and the theme of the novel makes it so most people can read it and understand it. Guin’s novels rightfully deserve to be mentioned up there with J. R. R. Tolkien’s works and the various fantasy authors that have shaped the genre over the decades.
There are some fantasy novels every fan of the genre has to read. And I can say that this book is one of those books. And while Guin may have been a sci-fi author first, her love and understanding of fantasy novels shines throughout the book, making it a must read.