By Matt Berman,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Slow but rich book of fantasy, feuds for tweens.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Violence & Scariness
A minor battle, a major character is killed with bow and arrow, animals and people are "unmade."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink and get drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, as fantasies go, this one doesn't have much violence, though an aura of dread hangs over it, and there's a small battle near the end.
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What's the Story?
In the harsh and barren Uplands, isolated clans possess a variety of magic powers to protect themselves from other clans in their constant feuding that goes back for centuries. Orrec's father, the Brantor, or leader, of his clan, has the talent for "unmaking," a deadly gift he expects his son to inherit.
But Orrec's gift seems to be wild and uncontrollable, and so he is forced to be permanently blindfolded lest he accidentally hurt those around him. Meanwhile Ogge, the bullying leader of a neighboring clan, is threatening theft, destruction, and conquest.
Is It Any Good?
As in her earlier work, Le Guin creates a strange and somewhat mystical world, without the epic sweep and bombast of high fantasy, and devoid of breakneck pacing.
Le Guin instead takes the time to lay the groundwork for this story about feuding magic clans. Readers may get confused by the profusion of names and relationships, but they will be fascinated by the well-drawn world, and find meaning and resonance in Orrec's story of shame and fear and self-imposed blindness. This is clearly the work of a master, though it may not be to the taste of many fantasy fans weaned on plot-driven, action-oriented fantasy. For those for whom "quiet" and "slow" are not terms of criticism, though, it's a rich and meaty tale.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the relationship between gifts and interests. What obligation do we have to our gifts? What responsibilities do they impose on us? More discussion questions are listed at the back of the book.
- Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
- Genre: Fantasy
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harcourt
- Publication date: April 12, 2006
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 274
- Available on: Paperback, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: December 5, 2019
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