A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin

I think I first read A Wizard of Earthsea when I was 9 or 10. I got bit by the fantasy bug bad when I was a kid, reading Tolkien and CS Lewis at a very young age. I was hungry for more books with wizards in them–even books by Bellairs, more horror than fantasy, but still had the whiff of magic about them.

To say I loved A Wizard of Earthsea might be overstating it, but it definitely smacked of what Lewis called the “numinous”. It seemed to glint and sparkle with a light unseen, hinting at hidden depths and deeper secrets. Much like the way Gandalph seemed foolish and wise at the same time, hinting at some holy power.

I don’t reread books much. Life’s short, you know? But my kids are about the age I was when I read it and it got me thinking about it. So I picked it up for them and then ended up reading it myself.

It holds up. I’d easily recommend it to an adult reader. There are subtleties to it that I know I missed as a child. But the friendship between Ged and Vetch still resonated powerfully with me, much as it did when I was a child when I longed for close friends like that. Now, as an adult, that I have those close and longstanding friendships, I can think fondly of my past self who got this thing so right. Ged is such a solitary creature, but he really comes alive from the light of his friend, like a sunflower turning its face to the sun.

I bounced off Tombs of Atuan pretty hard. It wasn’t the epic wizard tale I was looking for. Ged doesn’t even show up until halfway into the book! Took me a couple years and a couple tries before I finished it and the sheer obstinacy of youth. I’m looking forward to rereading it more than I did its prequel, though.

I once met Ursula LeGuin at Powell’s Books here in Portland. She read from a new book of short stories. I was enthralled. In the signing line, I stuttered and stammered over my enthusiasm and she said something short and wry and scowled at me in a not totally unfriendly way. It didn’t do anything to dampen my enthusiasm, and may actually have deepened it. I went on to read most of her other books. If you haven’t, I’d recommend doing so.

I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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