A wise person knows to expect thoughtful, imaginative, lyrical fantasy from Ursula K. Le Guin, and in A Wizard of Earthsea, she does not disappoint.
Goodreads summary: “Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.
Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.”
The Earthsea series are shorter novels for younger readers, but the themes Le Guin explores are timely and worth considering for anyone of any age. Through the fantasy medium, she teaches powerful lessons. Here, Ged is very nearly destroyed by his own pride and hubris, but the way to save himself is not simply to change and “be a better person” (which he demonstrably does,) but to recognize that he can’t simply cast off and destroy his own evil; he must own and accept it and choose good, always, for himself. Being a great wizard is not without responsibility, and one can’t truly understand the depth of the responsibility without understanding his own darkest impulses.
The book refers to the songs and legends of Earthsea concerning Ged, and, fittingly, the prose itself reads like a song. It’s poetic without being abstract, and evocative of a beautiful and diverse fantasy world. I wish I had read this when I was younger; I appreciated and enjoyed it now, but I would have been utterly enthralled 15 years ago. Still, I’m looking forward to completing the series.