4 out of 5 Stars
You may not know this but Portland, and many other cities in Oregon, has had some amazing artists and authors. Growing up I didn’t realize what I was surrounded by because that was just how life was. Ken Kesey lived in my city, the Grateful Dead rolled through town and I went to high school with some of their kids, we had amazing pioneers in a range of industries, politics, healthcare and life styles. But even as I was surrounded I missed a few folks as a young person and now as an adult I have found them. Sadly some of them are starting to leave us. Recently Ursula K. LeGuin passed away. She was a pioneer as an author in the Sci-Fi world for so many reasons and recently I started picked up the first book in her “Earthsea Cycle” – “A Wizard of Earthsea”. There are 6 books in the series.
The story starts with a young boy called Duny on the island of Gont, which is an island that has been home to many famous wizards. He was raised by an aunt after his mother died and had learned a few words which he didn’t know the meaning and ended up causing all of the goats to come to him. He got scared and ran to the village with all of the goats following him. His aunt saw what was going on and released the goats from the spell Duny had put on them and then brought him into her hut. She realized he had powers and offered to teach him what she could but he surpasses her knowledge and she knew he would need to move on. Ogion, a famous wizard and master, comes back to town. Duny is 13 now has shown his powers to his village and everyone is talking about him. Ogion takes Duny under his wing and gives him his true name – Ged. He continues the lessons so Ged doesn’t get himself into trouble and can use his power for good. Ged is a headstrong child and one thing leads to another where he is trying to prove to a girl that he has the powers he says he has and unleashes something he isn’t sure how to handle. Ogion helps with the situation but Ged ultimately decides after this situation it is time for him to journey to Roke, where the Masters are educated and he will be with other people who have similar powers.
From here our journey continues and Ged unleashes a shadow that can not be controlled and he is nearly killed by it. He learns humility and love, understanding and finds incredible bravery and kindness. Throughout it all he figures out who he is and what is important.
The writing is lovely and moves along quickly. There were some intense parts of the book, but nothing I found scary that would put kids off. My son will love this story although I was reminded of Eragon (only because I read Eragon first…had I read this first I would have thought of this book) and I am sure Christopher Paolini has read this series and took a lot of “inspiration” from it. Mrs. LeGuin is a master and the real deal and this book is so so much better. I wish I had found this first.
One thing I really liked in this story was the change we see from Duny to Ged to Master Ged. I think as we all go through life we have these various life stages we pass through and we are more sure of ourselves in some stages and not as much in others. There are some great messages throughout the book for boys and girls that still resonate even 50 years after it was first published. The themes are so universal.
As for age ranges, I know my son would have loved to have this read to him starting at 7-8 years old. There is one battle scene that was intense but deaths were not described (there were a few of minor characters who departed the world). Only one little death was mentioned in slightly more detail (“the limp body of Hoeg”) of a small animal that had adopted Ged and was very important to him. This one made my heart hurt a little bit. If my son were to read this on his own I would think he would be fine with it now as 10-11 year old. My version of the book is 255 pages long so it is not terribly long, but it is on the longer side of what he likes to read on his own. He just finished the “Hobbit”, so I know he is perfectly capable!
If the first book is any indication of the upcoming books, we are really going to enjoy the rest of the series. Friends who have read them have mentioned they only get better. Check them out! We highly recommend them.