A Wizard of Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin. A Wizard of Earthsea. New York: Bantam Spectra, 2004.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Audience: Young Adults, middle school and up

Read Aloud: Enjoy!

Summary: A Wizard of Earthsea is about a boy named Ged who learns that he is a wizard.  An old mage named Ogion takes Ged under his wing and helps him learn how to control his magic.  He is undisciplined and accidentally releases a shadow being into his world by reading an old spell.  Ogion drives it away and Ged is sent to a wizard’s school so that he can become a disciplined wizard.  At school he continues his arrogance and releases the shadow being once more.  He graduates and works for an island to save the people from a dragon, until he embarks on a quest to destroy the evil shadow that he released into the world.

Themes: A major theme in this novel is that it is a coming of age story.  Ged begins the book as a cocky powerful wizard who cannot control his temper and gets in trouble because of it.  As he goes to school and sees the world, he learns many things from the people and creatures in his surroundings.  He grows into a wise wizard by the end of the novel, and no longer loses control of his magic.

Another them in this novel is self-identity.  Throughout the novel, Ged hunts the shadow that he released into the world.  What he does not know is that this shadow is nothing more than the dark part of his soul.  He must come to terms with it if he is to become a truly powerful wizard.  In the end he realizes this, and the shadow and Ged become one being.

Connections: This book would be great to teach as a coming of age story to students that enjoy the fantasy genre.  Even though there are sequels to this book, the wizard Ged comes to term with himself and becomes a great wizard by the end of the book.  This would make it a better choice for fantasy coming of age than Harry Potter, because those books are long and rely on their sequels to tell the whole coming of age tale.

Reactions: I enjoyed reading this book.  At first I was skeptical and thought it was just another wizard fantasy like Harry Potter that would not be so entertaining.  As the bulk of the story happens after wizard school however, we get to see how Ged uses what he learned in the real world.  I loved how he learned lessons from many different people as he traveled aroung Earthsea, and each lesson worked well with his main goal of finding the shadow.

Reception: A review I read by Russ Allbery had some pros and cons about this book.  He says that the book was interesting enough because of the descriptions of all of the places, which I agree with.  I also like how he says that Ged was an interesting character, because I loved seeing Ged grow up and use his magic.  What I disagree with is his cons about this book.  Allbery says that the tone of this book is ruined by a boring narrator.  I think that the narrator was perfect because it was read as if it were a tale out of an ancient book.  It added to the overall mystique of the novel, and I would definitely rate this book higher than he did.


About mpdavenport

Born and raised in good ol' St. Charles, IL
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One Response to A Wizard of Earthsea

  1. Mike, this sounds like an interesting book. It sounds like it has a great deal “under the surface” that you could discuss in the classroom. Are there other novels/texts you might pair this with that address similar themes or have similar action? Would this be a book you would use with a whole class or just as a choice book for students interested in fantasy?

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