Review – A Wizard of Earthsea

Posted January 19, 2021 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Books of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin and Charles VessA Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin

I’ve read this I don’t know how many times, and it always charms. This time, I read it in the edition illustrated by Charles Vess, which is just gorgeous — and includes both an introduction by Le Guin and an afterword, which shed a little light on the book and what she thought of it, where it came from, and where it went. If you’ve never read it, A Wizard of Earthsea is a hero’s journey, a fantasy tale with dragons and sea-voyages and magic, but also an inward one.

I still maintain that Ged’s journey makes an excellent metaphor for (how I experience) mental illness. Sometimes the descriptions of the Shadow and the way it haunts Ged are just far too familiar; they fill me with my own anxious dread. But then it’s good to be reminded that when you turn and face it, and hunt it down, and accept it as a part of you… to some degree, things can be overcome.

All that said, I still appreciate that Le Guin came back to Earthsea, and found herself looking at how it came to be such a man’s world, and how it could be fixed, things which her introduction discusses a little.

On a non-story note, I did notice some changes in the illustrated edition. Some were obviously good corrections (my old Penguin had plain-sailing as a “sacred” skill on Roke, while this version has it as “scanted”, which is much more likely)… and others I have arguments with, like changing “in wizardly fashion” to “in wizardry fashion”. I think it was right the first time! And my other comment is that I wish there was an illustration of the otak. My visual imagination is non-existent, though I’ve muzzily over the years somehow come to the conclusion that it’s basically a carnivorous guinea pig.

Rating: 5/5

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