Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Wizard of EarthSea by Ursula Le Guin

Originally posted at Goodreads

There is something eerily familiar with A Wizard of Earthsea, something almost personal (perhaps there really is). It evokes pleasant memories of coming home, of finding home. Now this statement is meant in the figurative as much as it is in the literal for the book is almost dialectical in all of its aspects.

It employs the commonplace scenario of a coming of age story, of magical schools and of a powerful hero but delivers a resolution unlike any major names and titles in the fantasy genre, perhaps this is Le Guin's riveting hallmark. What is most fascinating in this unique work of fantasy is how personal and particular the main struggle is and yet it carries a worldly importance to the book. The perpetuation of the grand narratives of good against evil, or of the prosaic if not routinary overblown dilemmas of kings and men have endeavored to situate if not relegate this grand personal struggle everybody must go through (and yes, even characters in a book) in the background as mere subplots at the best and at worst as plot devices, never really brought in the forefront.

Subtly, I revel in the fact that the protagonist in this was envisioned to have dark skin. For it is not so much as the color of the skin that talks but of the profound meaning and effect it carries concerning simple details not only in the fantasy genre but of printed work generally. Considering this was first printed in 1968 where progress in the views of equalization and humanization has yet to get a foothold in the written work, the intent is as noble as it can get, and the end, almost revolutionary considering that most fantasy plots are patterned if not derived from the middle ages of conquest where the dichotomy of the white and black or of the east-west conflict is fundamentally translated to good and bad respectively and the stratification of the social class is at its height.

A fair warning however for those who will read Le Guin. The book is not about protracted world-building, nor is there extensive revelation on the magical system or of substantial supporting casting. Even the mythos is barely at a degree only sufficient for the story to have a leg to stand on and a cane to progress with.

The story is told in hindsight which for some may be a tinge of being anti-climatic, to an extent it is, for it will always defeat the ultimate question of 'what happens next?' Antithetically it also contributed to the mysticism, charisma and guile of our main hero.

These, I repeat is not where the A Wizard of Earthsea derives its strength.
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