Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

Years ago, I had some friends who said many of the ideas in Harry Potter could be found in the much older Earthsea Cycle books by Ursula LeGuin. Though I can’t find the purchase I made back then, rest assured that buying all 6 at the time cost something like 1.5x the first book, A Wizard of Earthsea. 

And I never read any of those sequels.

Since I have a hard time not reading things I buy, I decided to re-read A Wizard of Earthsea so I could continue the series without being lost.

The Book

A Wizard of Earthsea, 2021 read

A Wizard of Earthsea
Author: Toni Morrison
1968
Amazon Link

I’ll go ahead and be honest that when I read this book the first time, I wasn’t a fan. Not in the least. There was a reason I didn’t read the other books in the series despite them being short. I’m here now to see if that original feeling holds up.

Non-Spoiler Review

Compared to my first read-through a couple years ago, I’d say this book wasn’t as bad as I’d originally thought it. It’s still filled with telling rather than showing, and I just don’t like LeGuin’s style in this book. It feels like classic YA, something written between a fairy tale and an adult fiction. Because of this “telling” problem, the book contains a lot of completely disconnected explanations of the different islands on Earthsea. It was enough that I have completely forgotten them and would need them re-explained in the next book.

The dialogue was terrible, though I think it achieved its goal of feeling mythical or biblical. However, if I want to read something as boring as The Bible, I’m probably going to want to read The Bible since it is way more impactful on life, culture, politics, and (for me and a group of other people) salvation.

Ultimately, A Wizard of Earthsea is a Bildungsroman about a main character I don’t like. He’s truly a Mary Sue type character, one with powers far beyond those of any other character or creature in the book. (Other clear Mary Sues in a popular book include Paul from Dune, Ender from Ender’s Game, and General Jedao from Machineries of Empire.) I’ve never been a fan of Mary Sue characters, and this part of Wizard kept me from becoming invested.

The other characters were bland, and the female characters so sterotypically vapid that I didn’t even want to think about them.

The only redeeming qualities of this book, in my humble opinion, are the influences on fantasy and YA as arts. I can see its obvious importance in the formation of books like Harry Potter, and I can see how it connects from the seminal Lord of the Rings series (which I also need to re-read).

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

The plot of the book wasn’t terribly focused. The big enemy was a shadow that Ged/Sparrowhawk created in an attempt to summon a spirit from the dead. In order to defeat the spirit, he must find its name.

One of the things I remember from my first read is the name is freaking easy to guess. Since the shadow chases him forever before he turns around to chase it, and because it looks just like him, it should be well-known that the shadow’s name is Ged. The endless traveling around these islands and having conversations with the locals felt so pointless when the end result was obvious.

I don’t really want to read the sequels, but stupid me, I’m going to keep on with it because I spent money, dammit.

Next week:

All right, I’m going to keep on with The Tombs of Atuan. Blegh.

14 thoughts on “Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

  1. trentpmcd says:

    OK, I read the books at 9 and loved them 😉 As with any book at aimed at children, each one becomes more complicated and deeper, though, they are still aimed at 10 year olds, so complicated is a relative term.
    But then, when I was a kid, there were only three books. A fourth came out when I was an adult, and I read it. Very different from the others… I did not know there was a 5th and 6th since then.

  2. D. Wallace Peach says:

    I never read this series and I’m not sure why I skipped it. Now, I’m glad I missed it. That said, it is part of the fantasy legacy that brought us to where we are today. Have fun with the rest of them!

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