A Wizard of Earthsea: The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
A Wizard of Earthsea: The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Classic, magical fantasy novel for tweens up.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Ged is arrogant and filled with anger and jealousy, but he learns better.


A battle with some deaths, Ged is injured by a nameless shadow, a small pet is killed.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there is a battle scene with some deaths, which is not described. Otherwise there is little to be concerned about.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byK.schmidtt April 18, 2020

Great, Thoughtful Fantasy

I read these as a teen and have re-read them. LeGuin is a fabulous writer and these books are great. There are magical duals, dragons, and adventure -but these... Continue reading
Parent of a 7 and 10-year-old Written bysarafmc March 27, 2012

Excellent trilogy

This is one of the best, and best-written fantasy books I read as a kid, it won several awards (published 1968) and I have no problems letting my 10 year old re... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byBookMaster77 March 8, 2018

Wizard of Earthsea

A Wizard of Earthsea is a book, you can genuinely read at any time, and can be repeated without the book becoming dull. The book holds a more profound underlyin... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old September 11, 2011

An exciting fantasy for all ages!

I read this when I was 12, and I love it! Set in a world similar to J. R. R. Tolkien's, where magic is to be used as a last resort, A Wizard of Earthsea i... Continue reading

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate