I would quite like to go to Hobbiton in spring, maybe catch a quidditch game at Hogwarts, Oz looks like a bit of fun and I would love to travel through Narnia – but I am not so sure about the archipelago of islands that make up Earthsea. Earthsea is a realm surrounded by a different sort of magic – one that is deep and dark and knowing. A boy called Ged was born there though, and he has no choice but to stay and discover its secrets.
A Wizard of Earthsea is like a lot of other children’s fantasy novels in that it is about a boy growing up and travelling, going to a school for wizards, making friends and enemies, saving his village, learning and making mistakes. The thing that makes it different is the magic. This is not just an adventure tale, or a school story, or a friendship quest that happens to have some cool magic: this is a book about magic and a young wizard’s battle to find its balance within himself.
The magic isn’t all fun and games and biscuits either. It isn’t magic that makes a star at the end of a wand shine or turns your teacher into a toad. It is old magic with old rules, hidden traps and an all-knowing awareness. Sometimes the magic is dark and dreadful. I listened to A Wizard of Earthsea on audio book recently: I was walking through town with my headphones on – it was a windy, rainy day and I was very caught up in the story. Suddenly something TERRIBLE happened (I won’t tell you what, you might get a fright) and I SCREAMED right there in the middle of the footpath with the people in suits on their way to work staring at me and shaking their umbrellas.
But don’t be scared: it is only a book, and it is really a very good one. I won’t tell you that it has a happy ending, or that it is sooo funny and cool and easy to read, but I will tell you that if you truly like fantasy you really ought to come down to your library and get A Wizard of Earthsea.
This painting is by Astrid Nielsch who was inspired by Ursula Le Guin’s writing. She is exhibiting her paintings next week; you should go and have a look. They will be showing at Thistle Hall in Wellington – Cuba Street corner Arthur Street from 17 to 22 August, Tuesday to Saturday 11 am – 8 pm and Sunday 11 am – 6 pm. The opening is on Tuesday the 17th of August from 6-9 pm, and Astrid says you can expect dragons, wizards and magic!