Friday, 19 January 2007

a wizard of earthsea

I finished A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin a few days ago - another from the 'top 50' list I came across recently, which I already had on my shelf (in an Earthsea Trilogy volume) - and enjoyed it a lot until almost the very end. It was well-written and concise, an interestingly constructed world with a well-realised culture and story premise, written in a way that gave an impression of being an old story but without being archaic, in a way I couldn't quite put my finger on.

I'm not sure if it was originally intended as a children's book, which may be why it's shorter, and less verbose than much fantasy (although fantasy writers today, all imagining they are Tolkien, don't shy away from a series of doorstops). (I get the impression that a lot of fantasy novels today, courtesy of the Potter effect, get funnelled into being children's/youth fiction. Certainly the children's section of the library here is stuffed with fantasy.)

Having told a good story all the way through, the central conflict was resolved in a vague, philosophical way which I found rather disappointing. It reminded me of GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday in that regard (also a good book with a waffly ending). But I'll certainly read the next one in the series.

Since I've mentioned the Potter, I should mention that chapter 3 is 'The School for Wizards'. I don't think anyone, including JK, has ever claimed that the Potter books are original, but there's nothing wrong with that.

The map's a nice one, but not printed well across its two-page spread. I don't have to preserve it with a photo, because it's in several places online, not least on Ursula's own site.

It's been a while since I've managed to read a well-thought-of classic that I actually enjoyed, so that's nice.

Two good lines to close (both about shadow, as it happens, sounding a bit Eastern philosophically):
'Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light?' (p31)
'To light a candle is to cast a shadow . . .' (p48)
(Trilogy Edition, Penguin, 1979)

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