Review: A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle Book 1 of 6ish)

A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin

I was an adult before I became hooked on reading science fiction and fantasy, so there are a lot of classic books and authors I’ve still never read.  Until a day and a half ago, Ursula Le Guin was one of those authors.

The story is about a boy named Ged who, we’re told in the first paragraph, will become one of the greatest wizards of Earthsea.  We meet him just before he discovers he has magical abilities, and we follow him for several years.  Although Ged is good-hearted in many ways, he has a strong prideful streak which sometimes leads him to make bad decisions.  One of those decisions causes some serious trouble that he has to deal with.

I really enjoyed this story.  It had a lot of familiar plot elements, but the book was written in 1968 so they were likely new at the time.  They’re also things I tend to enjoy as long as they’re written well, and I thought this book was written very well.  I liked Ged a lot, particularly as he grew older, and I liked the way he embraced his magical abilities and was all gung-ho about learning everything he could.  Often characters like this in other books have a meeker and more timid reaction, so Ged’s reaction was fun even though sometimes he made me want to yell, “Noooo, don’t do that!”  

There were other interesting characters in the book also, like his friend Vetch and the wizard Ogion.  I wanted to see more page time for those characters, and I wanted to see Ged’s relationship with those characters fleshed out better.  The author tells us about Ged’s bond with them, and we see the evidence of it in events that happen afterward, but we really aren’t shown the development of those relationships.  The book is only about 180 pages, and I would extend that complaint to some other aspects of the story – in general I just wanted a little more meat and detail.  That’s my only real complaint about this book, although I guess it’s better to be left wanting more than wanting less.  

This book told a complete story, but I look forward to seeing what happens next in Earthsea.  I plan to start the next book later today.