Fantasy is one genre of fiction that many people shy away from, but almost every problem people have with fantasy is addressed in the Earthsea series. Ursula Le Guin provides a much-needed female perspective on traditional fantasy tropes and works against the generally male-oriented and male-constructed world of fantasy writing. There isn’t much sword-clanging and the like to be found here: simply the construction of a vivid, interesting world, filled with characters you care about and can actually tell apart.
A Wizard of Earthsea describes the early life of the main character, Ged, who becomes a talented wizard. There is much, much more to it than this, but this is really all you need to know: the simplicity and ease at which Le Guin eases into her narrative is something to behold. There is a really open feel to this entire work, which makes one feel as though they really are travelling with the characters throughout a world with plenty of open space – moreso than other works like The Lord of the Rings, which I found to be overly consumed with attention to detail and less concerned with telling a story.
The plot moves along at an excellent pace and never seems to flag or get caught up in its own details, and the focus on a single character is an excellent decision. The character of Ged is expressive and interesting enough to carry an entire book without needing the common fantasy device of a wisecracking band of travellers – not to say that the tone of the book is entirely serious and dour, which, again, is an all-too-common experience in fantasy literature. There are plenty of opportunities for the book to become mired down in drama, but this does not happen: there is simply apt and well-written description of events, relationships and happenings that entice the reader to read further.
There are plenty of plot devices in this book to be found in many other works: in fact, the idea of an academy for wizards and mages is something that Harry Potter owes a lot to. This work can be read by old and young alike, and has that magical quality of really transporting the reader to another world. It’s definitely a worthwhile read and should be sought out by everybody, even those without a real taste for fantasy.