He was born on the island of Gont, a land famous for pirates, goatherds and… wizards. The boy Ged begins an epic journey that takes him to Roke, the Isle of the Wise, where the skills of wizardry are learnt. There, in pride and anger, he summons a dark and malevolent spirit that sorcery cannot conquer. Pursued by this menace, Ged must flee across the oceans and islands of Earthsea, searching for a means to defeat it.
One of the great landmarks of fantasy, Ursula Le Guin’s novel set the benchmark for all future writers.
This is audio-book perfection; the pacing and delivery of Karen Archer is exemplary. The voices that she conjures for all all the individual characters are impressively unique and her attention to detail shines throughout this production. Craftsman and Archer are of course fortunate to have a book of the quality of Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea to work with but they do it full justice. The tracks on the recording are split into segments of 2-3 minutes and this allows the listener to easily find where they left off and the music, by the Renaissance Players accompanies the story well but without being intrusive.
I cannot fault this recording in any way; all punctuation is correctly observed and there is nothing not up to scratch. This audio-book is ideal for those wanting to escape to a land of sea, wizards and dragons; a thought-provoking tale of dangerous pride and acceptance – this audio-book sits comfortably next to its printed twin on the classics shelf.
This audio-book is available from the main sources: Amazon and Play.com but also from specialists like London’s Talking Bookshop in Baker Street.
To all of her performances, Karen Archer brings a seamless fluidity and humanity combined with precision and attention to detail. These qualities have made her a familiar voice in the many documentaries she has recorded for National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Karen has made numerous broadcasts for BBC Radio, twice being a member of BBC Radio Drama Company. Her work in the theatre includes classics such as Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan, Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts and contemporary roles such as Annie Wilkes in an adaptation of Steven King’s novel Misery. Her extensive television work has included Assistant Chief Constable Anne Stewart in the police drama series The Chief and Queen Elizabeth I in David Starkey’s acclaimed historical series, Elizabeth. Karen has read a biography of Queen Elizabeth I for Naxos Audio Books. For Craftsman, she has also recorded the complete Snow-Walker trilogy by renowned fantasy author Catherine Fisher. Karen says of A Wizard of Earthsea: “The tremendous reputation of this book preceded it. It was a wonderful challenge for an actor and I was delighted to be part of this new British unabridged recording.”
Ursula Le Guin was born Ursula Kroeber in 1929 in Berkeley, California. Her mother was a writer and her father an anthropologist. Her childhood was spent in a household filled with talk, argument and discussion surrounded by books, music and story-telling. As the only daughter in her family, the absence of her 3 elder brothers during World War Two made the summers at home lonely ones. Yet she considers those long days as a teenager, wandering the hills, of great importance: ‘I think I started making my soul then’ Ursula says. With a love of languages, she studied French and Italian literature at Radcliffe College. In 1953, in Paris, she married the historian Charles A. Le Guin. A very private person, Ursula Le Guin has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Portland, Oregon. She has published six books of poetry, twenty novels, over a hundred short stories, four collections of essays, eleven books for children, and four volumes of translation and says of the work of authorship: “Writing is my craft. I honour it deeply. To have a craft, to be able to work at it, is to be honoured by it.”
A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book of the Earthsea cycle, was first published to great acclaim in 1968. Millions of copies have subsequently been sold and the Earthsea books have been translated into 16 languages. Ursula says: “Exploring the Archipelago, discovering the rules of magic and what happens when you break them, the things I learned in Earthsea and the people I met there – that’s been a great part of my life for nearly forty years. And a great part of the joy of it is knowing that I share it with my readers.”
© Marian Wood Kolisch