Sonderbooks     Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Rate These Books

Sonderbooks 7
    Previous Book
    Next Book

Young Adult Fiction
        Previous Book
        Next Book

Children's Nonfiction
Children's Fiction
Picture Books

2005 Stand-outs
2004 Stand-outs
2003 Stand-outs
2002 Stand-outs
2001 Stand-outs

Five-Star Books
    Previous Book
    Next Book

Four-Star Books
Old Favorites
   Previous Book
   Next Book

Back Issues
List of Reviews by Title
List of Reviews by Author

Why Read?
Children and Books
Links For Book Lovers

About Me
Contact Me
Make a Donation

I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

cover   cover  cover  cover  cover

*****A Wizard of Earthsea

*****The Tombs of Atuan

*****The Farthest Shore


*****Tales From Earthsea

by Ursula K. LeGuin

Reviewed September 16, 2001.
Available at Sembach Library.
Ursula K. LeGuin is the winner of the 2004 Margaret A. Edwards Award for her lifetime contribution to young adult literature.

Last week I was a little disappointed that although the books I read were excellent, none stood out in my mind as much as The Oasis, from the previous week.  I’ve come up with a nice solution to that situation.  Every week, I’ll include a review of an old favorite--something I’ve read at least twice in my life and love dearly.  This way, I’ll have at least one outstanding book to mention every week.

I’m starting with the Earthsea books because I reread them all last May, and was reminded of how truly great they are.  The story of the first may sound familiar--a young boy discovers a gift for wizardry and goes to the Isle of the Wise to learn the craft.  (I believe this was written in the 1950’s, though.)  Ursula K. LeGuin writes with tremendous power.  You feel that her words have much deeper meaning than the mere story.

The first three are classed as children’s books, though I highly recommend them to anyone, young or old.  The fourth book, Tehanu, is very different from the other three and was written much later.  I think of it as more for adults, since it deals with our heroes late in their lives.  Recently, I read an essay in the book Origins of Story:  On Writing for Children, edited by Barbara Harrison and Gregory Maguire, where Ursula K. LeGuin explains what she was trying to do in Tehanu.  In the first three books, she was writing in the great male Heroic quest tradition--and mastered it beautifully, I might add.  However, Ms. LeGuin is a feminist and began to question some of the assumptions of that tradition of the male hero.  If you know not to expect more of the same, Tehanu is another great book, though not at all traditional.  I liked it very much that she explored the relationship between Ged (her hero of all the previous books) and Tenar (who was introduced in The Tombs of Atuan).  The ending is somewhat puzzling and completely unexpected.

In Tales From Earthsea (which came out early this year), she writes several shorter tales from the world of Earthsea.  These were excellent.  One at least sheds light on the strange ending of Tehanu.  Yet she continues with some feminist ideas, including female wizards for the first time.  It’s traditional in fantasy literature (and other literature, too) that the hero must give up everything for his art.  In some of the stories, that assumption is challenged.  And, in real life, isn’t it true that most women don’t have the luxury of focusing on only one thing?  We are wives, mothers, workers, artists.  Can’t that also work out to greatness?

Of course, all this exploration is done through story, not explicitly stated.  Ursula LeGuin’s books leave me entertained, moved, inspired and thoughtful.  They feel important, mythic and full of deeper significance.  The good news is that she’s planning to have another Earthsea book out in October.  I can hardly wait!

Review of the next Earthsea book:  The Other Wind
Reviews of other books by Ursula K. LeGuin:  
Changing Planes

More Info from
A Wizard of Earthsea
The Tombs of Atuan
The Farthest Shore
Tales from Earthsea

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved. 
-top of page-