Book #43: The Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea

This is a great fantasy. I’ve read a lot of okay and good fantasies, but this is an example of a great fantasy story. Not only is it a good example of magic and mysticism, it’s full of symbolism; the entire book is symbolic of the inner journey that each of us goes through to discover who we are. For this reason it is powerful to me; I read it and I see where I have walked a similar journey, and more importantly how much more I still have to go.

In this first book of the series, we join Sparrowhawk as he sets out for the Island of Roke, the school of magic, to seek his destiny. While there he makes friends and enemies, learns magic and gains power, but also discovers the darkness within himself and accidentally sets it loose on the world. When this happens he must decide what to do; should he run from the monster he has created, or should he turn and be the hunter? His search for the Nameless One will take him across all of Earthsea until the final moment when only one of them will survive.

Another thing I like about this series is its simplicity. I believe I’ve mentioned this before in regards to The Hobbit and these two books share a great deal in common. For one, they have simple lot style. There aren’t the complexities of political intrigue, prophecy, or large scale problem solving. It’s a story about one character going on a journey to discover who he really is. When you break down Bilbo’s or Sparrowhawk’s character you will find this at their core.

In his journey to become a man, Sparrowhawk must journey to discover who he is. Yet the simplicity adds to the majesty of the story. Life is often very simple. It’s in the simplicity that we are able to find meaning. Complex and simplistic books both have their place in the world of literature and without one or the other a great deal would be lost.

However, this is a character story. It moves a bit faster than other character driven plots but the real story is how Sparrowhawk changes from boy to man. This style is my personal favorite because, in my opinion, characters are the most important part of any story. The fastest way for a book to lose my interest is to have static or unoriginal characters.

Lately I’ve been revisiting my childhood stories and this is another one of them. The more I delve into this part of my past I become increasingly more grateful for my parents. They showed me a world of books that have profoundly impacted my life and by revisiting them now I see them in a whole new light.

For those of you who enjoy watching movie adaptations I would advise you to avoid the live action version of this book, as it is nothing like the book. That and I thought the acting and revised story to be poor as well. However, if you are interested, I would advise that you read the book first. There is also an animated version by Studio Ghibli, which is good, but again it has very little in common with the book. I feel sorry for Ursula K. LeGuin; it appears as though no one can make a movie that follows her books well. They are all phenomenal works of fantasy literature and the stories are timeless. I agree with the many reviews of this book; the Wizard of Earthsea Trilogy is a great fantasy epic, which stands alongside the works of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis as models for fantasy literature.

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