Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

This book is considered one of the classics of Sci-Fi/Fantasy as a genre.  It was originally published by Ursula K. Le Guin, one of the legends of Fantasy, in 1968.  For as long as I’ve been working on my novel, people have been telling me I need to read this book for two reasons: a similar setting, and non-white protagonists.

And this book certainly has that, so if you’re tired of pseudo-European fantasy or were frustrated with the thinly veiled racism of the Lord of the Rings, this is definitely a classic you’d want to check out.

As to whether I actually enjoyed reading it…  No.  This is not my style of book.  I like high-action stories with engaging characters I can get behind.  This is not that.  I kept putting it down for long stretches, and finished it more out of obligation than any real desire to.

Ged reminds me a lot of Draco from Harry Potter, and despite my fondness for shipping, that’s not actually a fun protagonist to follow.  He spends the early part of his life with everyone talking about how powerful and important he is, and it goes to his head fast.  His arrogance gets kicked hard at one point, and then he spends the rest of the book trying to fix his mistake.  At no point did I actually like him as a character.  There was no sympathy there.  His proactivity felt more like a magical compulsion than any choice of his own.  And I felt like his competence was more told than shown.

…which is actually a problem I had with the entire book.  A Wizard of Earthsea has the same mythopoetic feel that Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have.  I can easily see why they are compared.  It feels like someone is telling you a story, rather than letting you experience it through the character.  That sort of distance is not as popular as it once was, and it’s not something I enjoy.

I would like to clarify that this is not a bad book, it’s just not my style.  If this is your type of book, don’t let my review of it scare you away.


Recommended for: Fans of LOTR, fans of Narnia, people looking for fantasy classics written by women, people looking for non-white protagonists