Book review: A Wizard of Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin

One-line summary: a familiar wizard coming-of-age story, leading to a simple, heavy-handed moral: don’t be afraid of death.

I didn’t realize until the end how old this book is — published in 1968. That changed my opinion from “derivative” to “foundational” for the fantasy genre of magical educations. But the moral still fell with the force of an anvil.

What I liked: how seriously Ged, as an adolescent magician with tons of promise but little self-discipline, fucked up and then had to face the consequences. How much that fuck-up changed him, as it ought to have.

What I didn’t like: a total of four female characters, and only two of those had a name. Zero women among the magical school student body and staff.

What I also liked: the old-fashioned syntax you often find with old-school fantasy novels, though it did make it a terrible audiobook for driving. I couldn’t go five minutes without rewinding to pay more attention to the last few lines, though it speaks well of the book that I cared to (I’ve had other audiobooks where I just didn’t bother).

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