Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Ursula K. Le Guin is a great writer. I don't throw the word great around easily. I don't mean that she is just really, really good. I mean that she is a national treasure. She writes science fiction and fantasy that deals with profound questions of life and death, culture, morality, and ethics. Her writing is deceptively simple yet always beautiful and frequently profound.

I guess you could say I'm a fan. But in my usual slow way I only now got around to reading the last (so far) of the Earthsea novels, The Other Wind. It's been about ten years since I read the previous novel, Tehanu, so I'm glad Le Guin was gentle with us forgetful readers and wove little reminders of past events into the plot. I would say that if you are new to the series you could read this one without getting lost, but you shouldn't do it. You should read A Wizard of Earthsea first. Really. Drop what you're doing and go get a copy.

The Other Wind introduces us to a young sorcerer, Alder, who comes to our old friend Ged for help. He has been having troubling dreams about his wife in the afterlife. He sees her, nightly, reaching to him across the wall that separates death from life. Ged does what he can for him and then sends him to the island of Havnor to see the king. There he meets Ged's wife Tenar and their daughter Tehanu. From that simple start Le Guin creates a tale about love, reconciliation, magic, dragons, and the meaning of life. In the process she completely re-works the mythical structure of Earthsea and it's concepts of death and existence. Mythopoetic fiction does not get much better than this. It is a wonderful finale to a great series.

Edit: Oh fer cryin' out loud! I misspelled "Ursula." What a knucklehead I be.

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