After reading travel memoirs over the summer, my book club decided to go with something completely different. We decided on a classic young adult fantasy novel, The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin. This book is a classic that I seem to have missed, so I was happy to give it a try.
The main character of the book is Ged, a young wizard. He grows up in a rural area, where people gradually realize that he is a very talented wizard. After a few adventures, he is sent to a wizarding school. While showing off to his classmates, Ged accidentally summons a shadow from another world. At first, he is forced to leave school to run from the shadow and travels to a variety of places in the process. Eventually, he takes on a quest to find and defeat the shadow.
The plot of this book may not sound overly original, but keep in mind it was published in 1968. At that time, fantasy novels with a young protagonist were much rarer. The non-violent plot-line was also unusual-while a quest is an extremely common plot-line, most fantasy novels that Le Guin’s original readers would have been familiar with featured battles and wars. The Wizard of Earthsea was very different because of its smaller scope.
In other words, this book is a classic for a reason. If you are a fan of fantasy or are interested in the history of that genre, don’t miss it. This book was a turning point. There is a reason it is so often taught in schools. However, if you are just looking for a good fantasy novel to read, this would not be my first suggestion. The genre has continued to develop, and while other books may not be able to claim to be the first of their kind, they may also contain better stories. For one thing, the female characters in this book are pretty one-dimensional, and many modern readers have come to expect strong female characters (as well they should!) After all, fantasies with characters that young people can relate to aren’t hard to find anymore. I will give this book three stars, because while I appreciate that it took a genre in a different and very positive direction, I am aware of a lot of other books that are simply more fun to read.