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A Wizard of Earthsea: The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ged, a motherless goatherder from a small island village, shows early signs of magical power. First taught by the village witch, he is then apprenticed to the wizard of the island. But he is restless for power and glory, and is eventually sent to study at the Wizard School on Roke Island.
There he is a top student and shows signs of one day becoming one of the greatest of wizards. But his pride and jealousy foolishly lead him to accept the challenge of a snide older boy to show his power.
In doing so, Ged accidentally unleashes into this world an evil shadow from the land of the dead, and causes the death of the Archmage. Now Ged must figure out how to overcome this shadow before it possesses him.
Is it any good?
Ursula LeGuin's first book in the Wizard of Earthsea series is high fantasy, written by a master, one of the great works of young adult literature of the 20th century. Grounded in Celtic and Norse mythology and written in flowing, formal language, this is not a slam-bang, sword and sorcery, action fantasy: When Ged goes to battle a dragon, they negotiate an agreement instead, and the climactic moment is as quiet as a whisper. There isn't even a real villain.
So what keeps the pages turning? It's all in the details, the gradual unfolding and perfecting of another world, with its own rules and geography and magic. Ged is a fascinatingly flawed hero, and the action, though placidly paced, moves relentlessly forward toward a final confrontation that has more to do with Ged coming to understand himself than with overcoming world-dominating evil. This is a fantasy for the intellect rather than the gut.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the ideas about personal responsibility and about life and death raised here. What responsibility do we bear for the unintended consequences of our actions? What do you think of how life and death are presented here? Also, the author was very vocally unhappy with the miniseries adaptation of this book. What do you think of the adaptation? How could it have been done better? Why are film adaptations often so different from the book?
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