A Wizard of Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin
A Wizard of Earthsea Cover

A Wizard of Earthsea


The book is called A Wizard of Earthsea and that's exactly what it is about, no more and no less. It introduces Duny, a young boy who displays power that leads him to study with a local witch, draws the attention of a great mage, and then proceeds on to study to be a true wizard, but not before awakening a dark evil that will haunt him for many years.

This is the first book in Le Guin's Earthsea saga. I've read other books that serve as an introduction to a main character and their world, but some of them have tried too hard to throw in extra details and events and characters to build that character and world. Le Guin skillfully weaves Duny's life through a series of important moments and people in under 200 pages. I try to use the word "pithy" at least once a week, and it definitely suits the way Le Guin tells Duny's story. Every character and plot device has a purpose in shaping the boy who will become one of the greatest mages known.

The dialogue is a bit unusual, but it works for the flow of the story. In fact, "flow" is another word I willuse to describe the book because everything moves smoothly, like a river flowing out to sea. Perhaps the title and the many journeys that Duny takes by boat have influenced that feeling, but that's exactly what I imagined as I read through it. There were quiet, slow moving moments, like his time with the mage Ogion, or the more rushing moments of his battles with dragons and shadows. But everything stayed the course.

Duny himself is an interesting character. He begins as a typical young teenager full of curiosity and a thirst for knowledge, but we also see his strong sense of pride develop as his knowledge increases and we see the horrible results of that pride and how it all is integral to the wizard he's meant to become.

A lot of fantasy books that exist within their own unique worlds preface with a map. This book doesn't need one. There are a lot of places mentioned and visited in Duny's travels, but I felt like I could create the map myself based on how clearly and concisely Le Guin took us from place to place. I also love the way magic works, with so much power placed on words – on names specifically.