A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin
I had a hankering to re-read Earthsea, because I was sure that I did not remember it properly. In fact almost all of this book was familiar to me. What struck me, from the perspective of having read so much more fantasy since the first time I read A Wizard of Earthsea, was the narrative voice and the lack of magic.
The narrative voice is the distanced reporter in the vein of epic storytelling. It means that a lot more is reported than might be expected. Certainly it sometimes seemed that a lot happened by report rather than on the page. This took a little bit of getting used to, but once I kind of slowed down my reading, it worked very nicely.
The lack of magic reminded me of Lord of the Rings. Unlike, say, The Wheel of Time, which seems to be the current in derivative fantasy, which has magic everywhere all the time, and even NK Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed, who do interesting and unexpected things with magic, have a lot of magic in their stories. For a story about a Wizard, there is little magic in Earthsea, or rather it is fabulously opaque.
I did remember the final revelation. That still worked very much for me.
The Tombs of Atuan, Ursula Le Guin
I definitely had not read this before. I have internet acquaintance, one of whose favourite characters is Tenar. I was glad to come to know her. I loved reading a story set in such an enclosed environment, both physically and emotionally. It was also great to see Ged from another’s perspective.
The narrative voice has the same distant reporting of the first book. It seems quite different from the view of Ged. I think it has to do with the scope of the story. Ged’s coming of age is older, harder, darker and more epic than Tenar’s. Tenar’s is much more internal, fundamental to her to sense of self and understanding of the world.
The Farthest Shore, Ursula Le Guin
I thought that I had not read this, because I had not read the second book, but I remembered the scenes on the rafts. I had actually thought that that happened in the first book and waited and waited for Vetch and Ged to be found by the raft people. Other parts of The Farthest Shore are also familiar: the scene with the dragons and maybe the visit to the town. It was odd, the sense of familiarity with the detail, without any memory of the pot of the story. I think having not read book two, I totally missed the thing with Lebannen’s destiny.