The Earthsea Quartet – Ursula Le Guin

The Earthsea Quartet is four semi-stand alone novels set in Le Guin’s fantasy archipelago Earthsea. It follows the thread of Ged’s life as he rises from goatherd of Gont, but for three of the novels we see him from the perspective of a different central character as they come of age and work out who they are in the world.

The world is well-developed, with institutions and power structures that can shift. I also like the limitation on magic – that you have to know the name of that specific thing to control it, as well as have the power to use that name. Everything then grows from that.

Of course the age of the novel is the era when power is shifting, and we are given a central position to see it happen and watch as it is adjusted to suit Ged.

I first read this in the school library aged 12, and at the time it put me off Le Guin’s work. This time around I’ve borrowed it from the children’s – not even teenage – library because I wondered why everyone else loved it. As an adult reread, I have greatly enjoyed it. There’s good character development, a common thread, worldbuilding and development. But each book stands alone to a great extent, the characters are mostly quite distant, there are plenty of references of adult relationships and quite sophisticated language is used. Then the final novel is not a coming of age but a retirement and moving on theme. Really I’d not leave it in the library intended for under 12s!

Have you revisited a childhood read recently?

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2 thoughts on “The Earthsea Quartet – Ursula Le Guin

  1. I’m kind of scared to read any of the books I read in my childhood…I mean what if I see them differently and won’t like them that much 😀 Then again I’ve been re-reading Stephen King’s books and I love his way of writing. Some of his books are so not meant for kids.

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