Earthsea — Dragons and Wizards

The Wizard of Earthsea, Book 1 of the Earthsea series, Inked illustration by Charles Vess, (color added by Carto for this review)

Sheltering at home gives me extra time for reading— I read in English some books I first read while studying Spanish: 100 Years of Solitude, Love in the time of Cholera, Death in the Andes, etc.  Now, I’m turning to other classics: Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook, and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy; maybe I’ll add Harry Potter, volume 6 and 7, to the list, but now let’s talk about Earthsea.

Ursula K. Le Guin’s young adult series— Earthsea. The 50th anniversary edition is a mammoth, 1000 page compendium of all things Earthsea. It is complete and illustrated, but heavy. It’s beautifully printed, and, as a plus, there is an enlightening afterword following each of the 6 books. The color illustrations are fun and match the story line, but are a little flat (I think they could have been brightened), and the ink drawings are Ok but one could hope for color nowadays.

Earthsea, Tehanu, frontpiece, p395, Illustration by Charles Vess, (detail w/ embellishments by Carto)

The Earthsea series tells the epic tale of how a truce between dragons and men was accidentally broken by a young boy with magical powers who unleashed a dangerous menace. The  boy becomes a magician and tries to correct his youthful mistake by sailing to the very limits of the archipelago. The story is about wizards and dragons, but along the way we learn about the ordinary folks living in the mythical lands of Earthsea. There are no wars or epic battles in the series, but tension builds as magic disrupts the uneasy truce between dragons and men.

The author has definite views about dragons; in the Afterward of the third book of the series she says:

“In The Farthest Shore I began to see them clearly. … The dragons are, perhaps above all, beautiful. As tigers are beautiful. Could anyone regret having seen a tiger? Unless, of course, they had a little while to regret it while the tiger ate them. 

“The dragons are beautiful, and also mortal, as tigers are. Long lived, but not indestructible. Terrible, but not monstrous. Fierce, fiery, careless of human life, sometimes careless of their own lives. Destructive when angry, very much to be feared, and untameably wild. Mysterious, as all great wild creatures are mysterious.  But not incomprehensible. Speech is natural to them, inborn, they don’t have to learn it as we do. Their language is the only one they will speak, is the tongue that wizards must learn, the tongue that works magic, the True Speech, the language of the Making.” 

— Ursula K. Le Guin in Earthsea, The Farthest Shore, Afterword, page 388.

Happy Reading, Carto

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition (Earthsea Cycle) Hardcover – Illustrated, October 30, 2018
by Ursula K. Le Guin (Author), Charles Vess (Illustrator)

About carto

Retired software engineer who grew up in Montana, went to Montana State College in Bozeman, and moved to California to work at Stanford Research Institute (SRI). Carto's Library is about books I've read and liked; Carto's Logbook is about photography, travel and adventure. Mt. Maurice Times is tall tales mostly biographical.
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