Le Guin, Ursula K.

About the Author:

 

Ursula K. Le Guin was born in Berkely, California, USA in 1929.  She lived in Portland, Oregon until her death on the 22nd January 2018.

 

AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:

4 out of 5

(3 books)

Tales From Earthsea

An anthology of short stories set in various periods of Earthsea's history.  There's always been something about Le Guin's writing that has bothered me, but which I've not been able to quantify.  Then, whilst reading the author's self-righteous introduction to this book, in which she slams popular, pulp fantasy, I suddenly realised what it was; she's far too preachy.  The main focus of this preaching in this book is based around feminism and female equality.  I'm all for sexual equality, but here it's the author's own previous works which she's trying to retroactively correct.  You don't just suddenly realise 'hey, women should be equal with men' - especially if you're a woman yourself - and yet Le Guin seems to have done just that and then tried to find as many different ways to batter that idea into the reader as possible. 

I would slate this book if it weren't for two things, the first of which is simply the extra information we get about the history of Earthsea; one of the stories is about the founding of the School on Roke and the book includes an essay about the languages, peoples and history of Le Guin's fantasy world.  The second is the novella-length story 'Dragonfly'.  I'd read it before, in the 'Legends' anthology (reviewed elsewhere on this site), but that was before I'd read any Earthsea books and it failed to capture my attention.  This time, however, I truly enjoyed it and found it to be the gem that redeemed this book as a whole.

4 out of 5

 

The Earthsea Quartet

An omnibus edition of the first four books (obviously) in the Earthsea series; 'A Wizard Of Earthsea', 'The Tombs Of Atuan', 'The Farthest Shore' and 'Tehanu'.  Le Guin creates a fantasy world of exceptional quality and is certainly one of the people who made the fantasy genre what it is today. 

The book follows the adventures of Ged, AKA Sparrowhawk, a boy who grows up to become the Archmage of Roke.  The first book is very much a coming of age story, telling of Ged's childhood, training as a mage and finally his attempts to escape an evil which he himself unleashes.  This evil proves to be Le Guin's finest creation as Ged's final discovery of its nature is inspired. 

The second book is actually my favourite, capturing the spirit of the old pulp fantasy as it features ancient tombs and decayed cultures.  I wasn't quite so struck on 'The Farthest Shore' although Le Guin's take on the afterlife is interesting (albeit pretty depressing).  Funnily enough, 'Tehanu' is very often panned in other reviews, but I actually quite enjoyed it.  It's a return to a more simple sort of fantasy story, but at the same time deals with some deep issues.  I also enjoyed the direction that Ged and Tenar's relationship takes, seeming so appropriate after what they've been through together.  Although, I'm not afraid to admit that the revelation about Tehanu surprised me less than the last time I looked down and saw feet. 

The reason I've docked a point overall is that Le Guin's prose can sometimes seem really childish and simplistic.

4 out of 5

 

The Other Wind

The fifth Earthsea novel.  Dragons harrass the lands of men and a sorcerer seeks the counsel of the wise when his dead wife begins to beckon to him from the lands of the dead. 

I liked the characters Le Guin features here, particularly Alder, who is a humble everyman but eventually is the one who leads the mages of Roke in what must be done.  The author gets to further expand her concept of the afterlife, began in 'The Farthest Shore' and I liked the fact that it was man's own unnatural quest for immortality that leads into the grey lands of the afterlife, when other creatures return to the soil and are reborn. 

A fitting continuation to the Earthsea series, although I still have trouble with Le Guin's often simplistic prose.

4 out of 5

Collaborations & Anthologies:

Legends (here)

The Wizards Of Odd (here)

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Fantasy (here)