Hey Read This… Sometimes Dragons Just Need A Talking To

Posted on February 6, 2012

A Wizard of Earthsea

By: Ursula K. Le Guin

I promise not to bring you guys too much fantasy. I really try to read nothing but the best. ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’, is one of the classics of the fantasy genre. Yes, there are dragons. Yes, it is written in that lofty language that all fantasy novels are written in. You know how in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies, everybody talks with an Englishy accent? Well you can imagine the book written this way. However, this book, although written in the late ’60s, challenges many of the conventions of fantasy writing.

Picture a wizard. I’m no psychic, but you’re probably picturing a dude with a beard, with a cool staff and flowing robes everywhere. He’s also old and is wise like the trees or whatever. If you’re picturing Harry Potter, or anything from the Harry Potter universe, well, guess what, there’s a theory that Rowling’s main inspiration for a young, headstrong warrior battling a nebulous, powerful evil, came from ‘Earthsea.’

My point is that Guin was tired of reading books about wizards who were old and wise. So she wrote about a kid learning about magic who gets in way over his head.

In this book we follow the coming of age of the wizard Sparrowhawk. Even at a young age any wizard that met him realized that he just might be the greatest wizard of all time. He goes to a wizarding school where he clashes with one of his classmates and, on a dare, tries to raise someone from the dead.

This unleashes an unholy shadow on the world, which Sparrowhawk spends the rest of the book trying to defeat. On the way he’ll ride around in sail to the ends of the earth, compromise with a dragon and run away from a castle.

The first thing I liked about this is that it was short. Although you’re following Sparrowhawk from about the ages of 13 to 19, it’s done in about 150 pages. Each book of the Lord of the Rings is about twice as long as that.

The headstrong character is really what makes this. He fails miserably several times. And it is only through the help of some townspeople or powerful wizards that he is able to get it together and go back to adventuring.

I’ve had this book in my possession since my youth and it’s honestly a huge regret that I didn’t read it when I could identify with the character. For those of you who were 13-14 when you read “Ender’s Game’ or the first ‘Harry Potter’, you’ll know what I mean.

If you’re looking for a book that bucks the mold or are looking for a quick fantasy read, go ahead and pick up “A Wizard of Earthsea.” If you’ve got a 13 year-old, nerdy nephew/cousin/love-child and you don’t have a present for them, well I just saved your bacon now didn’t I?

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