The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin

Rating 10.0/10
Stunning, thought-provoking fantasy.

The Earthsea Quartet brings together Ursula Le Guin’s four legendary Earthsea sagas for the first time in a single volume. The novels belong to the high fantasy genre and follow a young boy from the discovery of his magecraft through to him becoming the greatest mage of all time. The four books are: A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore and Tehanu.

The books, first published in the late 1960’s, are written in a simple, free-flowing style and I quickly fell under their charm. Although this is a book that can be read and enjoyed by children and adults, its themes are far more adult than say, The Chronicles of Narnia or the Harry Potter series.

The book’s narrative keeps you intrigued although I must admit that I found the opening chapters of The Tombs of Atuan rather hard going. This was due mainly to the in-depth descriptions of Arha’s visits to the Undertomb and the Labyrinth. There is a strong Taoist element running through the book, especially in regard to the “balance” of magic. You might even say that Newton’s second law, “To every action there is an equal but opposite reaction” would also apply here.

Ged, the young boy who becomes a mage is central to all four sagas and his choices dictate the stories direction. One such key moment occurs early in his training, shortly after he has been taken under the wing of Ogion, his mentor and friend. Ged has become frustrated with his perceived lack of progress and Ogion offers him these following words of wisdom.

"You did not come to me, but I to you. You are very, very young to make this choice, but I cannot make it for you. If you wish, I will send you to Roke Island, where all high arts are taught. Any craft you undertake to learn you will learn, for your power is great. Greater even than your pride, I hope. I would keep you here with me, for what I have is what you lack, but I will not keep you against your will. Now choose between Re Alibi and Roke." A Wizard of Earthsea: The Shadow

Ged faces many battles during his life but it is the battle within himself that stands out in the book. Ursula Le Guin shows that the demons that are inside us all should be accepted and battled rather than ignored or denied. It is by facing these demons and overcoming them that we can truly become the person that we would all like to be. There is no way to go through life without making mistakes and having regrets, it is the way in which we deal with these moments that makes us into the people we are. Put simply, none of us are, or ever will be perfect. It is how we are able to deal with our imperfections that matters.

"In our minds, lad. In our minds. The traitor, the self, the self that cries I want to live, let the world rot so long as I can live! The little traitor soul in us, in the dark, like a spider in a box. He talks to all of us. But only some understand him. The wizards, the singers, the makers. And the heroes, the ones who seek to be themselves. To be oneself is a rare thing, and a great one. To be oneself forever, is that not greater still?" The Farthest Shore: Orm Embar

Ursula Le Guin has a reputation for exploring psychological and sociological themes within her books and this collection of books is no different. These novels can be read by children and enjoyed from the perspective of magic, wizards, adventure and the beautifully imagined world of Earthsea. They can also be appreciated by adults for the thought-provoking elements that the book conjures. This is a collection that makes you think and leaves you thinking.

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The Earthsea Quartet reader reviews

from UK

1-stars

Having just finished this I cannot perceive how it's been awarded 10.0/10. If you REALLY enjoy and know your way around fantasy, don't waste your valuable reading time. Give this a miss and go and read Steven Erikson instead. Re-phrase that: Go and read ANYTHING instead. Guess it's ok for kids but that's all, I'm just so glad I found it in the library instead of forking out £15 for it in paperback!!!

from US

10-stars

The Earthsea books have always held a special place in my heart. I first read them decades ago and they are truly timeless. Some books from the same era have not aged well but the Earthsea saga has aged like a very fine wine. All four books explore human behaviour and never come across as judgemental, instead encouraging the reader to form their own opinions. I liked Harry Potter and am delighted my children are reading those books. But I secretly hope they will read Le Guin's quartet and love it every bit as much, ideally even more. A must read for children who relish thoughtful fantasy.

from USA

9-stars

It's an epic fantasy. There's a whole LOT of world building, and requires a lot of thought. But once you get past that, the pretentious language and sentence structure, and some of the adult themes, this book actually has an enjoyable story line and meaning. But don't try to read it all too fast - it'll make your head hurt. :) This books was written masterfully.

from Australia

10-stars

The wisdom and the quiet ancient beauty of these books grow every time I reread them.

from South Africa

5-stars

It's okay I guess - but it's too detailed, every part has too much written in but its fine I guess, that's why I rated it as average.

from Earth

3-stars

Really boring if you have read a lot of other fantasy stories. Historically valuable, I agree, as they were among the first of their kind. But still, don't read if you know your way round fantasy.

from Winchester

8-stars

Classics - stand the test of time.

from Poland

7-stars

The Earthsea Quartet shows lofty dignity and appears pretentiously grand in language, thought and generality. However, I feel perhaps the authors imaginativity runs short, barely managing to make a strenuous effort to recover itself - and only does so to finish what has already been started.

from The Netherlands

10-stars

My father read this book when he was 17, now I am reading it and I love it! It's better than Harry Potter, believe me. This is not about a magic sticks, but 'true names'. it's something different and better. It is stunning, exciting and very good. I'm a fan!

from The Netherlands

10-stars

My father read this book when he was 17, now I am reading it and I love it! It's better than Harry Potter, believe me. This is not about a magic sticks, but 'true names'. It's something different and better. It is stunning, exciting and very good. I'm a fan!

from Earth

3-stars

An abysmal series and equally abysmal review. The writing drags and is as exhilirating as a rendition of "run spot sun". There are no Taoist themes, no complex narrative and no excitment. The story is shallow overtold and certainly not worth wasting your time on...

from Oxford

10-stars

Le Guin is a writer for whom Tolkien himself would have had much respect. Her use of "true names" continues the legacy of what magic truly is, knowing and understanding, and recognizing that power is inherent in this knowledge. It reflects the concept of what the word "spell" represents. Not only is her construction of this world deserving of praise, but her writing and depiction of characters struggling with the timeless themes of mortality, love, and fear are nigh on matchless. "Despair speaks evenly, in a quiet voice." - Tehanu

from Australia

8-stars

At the age of 15 I have recently read the series and I find the books enjoyable and a good read. I would recommend this series to anyone. Perhaps it is because of my personal taste but I prefer series that focus on the journey of the protagonist while introducing other characters through the view of this protagonist. Anyhows that is my opinion and should not stop anyone reading this.

from England

10-stars

I read these as a child and am re reading them now as I do from time to time. The language is spare and beautiful and the stories have something to offer your heart at many stages of your life. A fantasy world that feels as if it is part of your soul is a rare thing indeed and this is what U K Le Guin has created in my life.

from Georgia

1-stars

I can't believe these books are loved by so many. Perhaps the longest read for 4 short books ever. I do not recommend these to anyone. Save yourself the pain.

from Lucknow, India

10-stars

The Earthsea Quartet is a must read for every fantasy fan. Le Guin's sparse beauty of language, piquant descriptions which almost makes you feel the salty tang of sea and dynamic characterization with a deeply moralistic story to the core, leaves the reader spellbound. The level of introspection reaches its culmination in Tehanu which is more of a study of social interaction and emotional resonance, which quite a few of you wouldn't like. But overall, the series is highly recommended.

from Dorset

10-stars

These are spell-binding books, each as good as the other. The thing I like about them most is the way in which we follow the main characters, Ged and Tenar all the way from childhood to old age, it really feels like you have lived their lives with them. If you love fantasy, you must read these 4 books and The Other Wind.

from Pembroke

10-stars

This is a wonderful series of books, all subtly different and Tehanu, which some think of as a weakness is the best of them all. The Earthsea books are suitable for ages 12 up to 120 and it doesn't matter whether you are male or female, these books have something to offer everyone. The meaning of life and the human fear of death are the themes that run strongest through the books and this is done through characters that are simply perfect and in Ged and Tenar we are able to watch them go from young and unsure children into the wise adults. If you enjoy reading fantasy then you must read these books, they will stay with you for the rest of your life.

from Gateshead

10-stars

This is what a fantasy series should be all about, one that makes you think rather than thinking for you. Forget Harry Potter, it's weak compared to this. Some people think that Tehanu is a weak point in the series, they're wrong, it's told in a different way that's all and with far less action and focuses more on the character's, it was exactly what was needed at the stage in the series. Ursula Le Guin is a master story-teller, she entertains you and makes you think at the same time, she would have made a good teacher.

7.8/10 from 20 reviews

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