Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Discuss SFF books and authors here.
#1240
Pretty sure everyone has heard of this one. Not everybody has read it, but most people know about it. I discovered it when I was still in primary school. It wasn't actually even in the school library (there may have been a copy there, I never checked), it was in the bookshelf we had in the classroom.

The cover kept calling out to me. It was a dreadful version with Ged in the form of Sparrowhawk (he was human from the waist down, but mostly bird above), before you're in your teens, awful things like that reach out to you. Even then my preferred genre of reading was fantasy.

I'd never heard of LeGuin or knew how respected she and her works were even then. I started reading A Wizard of Earthsea one afternoon and didn't leave Earthsea until a day or two later. The story of Ged and his early days just captivated me. I later sought out and read The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore (Tehanu didn't come out until 1990, and I'd kind of moved on by then) the other two never had the same effect on me that the first one did.

It's had a profound effect on the genre, as did the author herself. It was one of the first fantasy novels I can remember to heavily feature non white characters, and LeGuin herself did say that she was turned off by the assumption that all characters should be white and their world resemble the European Middle Ages.

It was intended to be a standalone, despite the two following books not coming out that long after, but I think that shows, and it may be why they didn't recreate the magic of the first one for me.

A Wizard of Earthsea was the first book I've ever heard of to feature a boy wizard, who attended a magical school. Up to that point wizards seemed to turn up as old characters (generally bearded) carrying staffs and wearing robes. Ged showed that this wasn't the case, they had to learn somewhere, and he was far more fallible and flawed than many of them were.

The concept has been borrowed from many times since with varying degrees of success. I thought The Name of the Wind was heavily influenced by A Wizard of Earthsea. I wouldn't call it one of my all time top 10 books, but it was certainly one of the ones that nurtured my interest in the genre and helped me to hold it for many years. I suspect I'm far from alone there.
ScarletBea, DragonFlame liked this
#1242
I came to Wizard of Earthsea much later, as part of a deliberate attempt to read children's books I'd missed as a child, and I found it didn't work as well for me. That first book is kind of rambling and all over the place. Maybe that's great when you're reading quite slowly and you're young enough to fill in the gaps with your imagination, but the series didn't take off for me until the more contained and linear narrative of The Tombs of Atuan. Books 2 and 3 are the ones that really clicked for me.

I do have a vague memory of seeing the book when I was the right age. I distinctly remember looking at the map. I might even have started it, but if so I must have found it hard going even then.
#1244
I'm in the same situation as @DrNefario.
I only read this book 10 years ago, when I got a volume with the four Earthsea stories, I didn't even know it was supposed to be a children's book - it was just a classic that I should catch up on.
Because of that, I felt it was a bit derivative - of course I was reading in the wrong order, since I read first all the books that were inspired by it! It must make a huge difference if you read this one first and at a younger age.

My favourite was Tombs of Atuan.
#1245
I have to say this is one of the cases where I feel I evaluate stuff differently because I don't look at it and go "there's a magic school, there's naming magic, there's a quest involving a shadow self" but I look at it and see Le Guin's prose and spirit of humanity. It captures the sense of a forgotten age somewhere a long way away in a way many of the works that went for similar aesthetics never came close to. As a result, she captures emotions and moments that very few authors do. Maybe that's part reading her young-ish but I think my appreciation for them has grown hugely in later years.

I'd also add that the very compact and spartan plot is something that's worked for me more and more recently.
Elfy liked this
#1248
ScarletBea wrote: April 18th, 2024, 15:01 I'm in the same situation as @DrNefario.
I only read this book 10 years ago, when I got a volume with the four Earthsea stories, I didn't even know it was supposed to be a children's book - it was just a classic that I should catch up on.
Because of that, I felt it was a bit derivative - of course I was reading in the wrong order, since I read first all the books that were inspired by it! It must make a huge difference if you read this one first and at a younger age.

My favourite was Tombs of Atuan.
The derivitive feeling is what I got as well for the same reason. I have read so many things that you can trace some influence/lineage back to Earthsea that when I actually got to the original it just didn't hit at all.