Gifts by Ursula Le Guin (Annals of the Western Shore: Book 1)

Gifts is a book by Ursula Le Guin, the best-selling author of the Earthsea series. First published in the United Kingdom by Orion Children's Books in 2004.

Gifts is what can be described as a “grower”. It did not immediately grab me and hold my attention, the multitude of names and locations were slightly confusing and the characters themselves were not instantly likeable. However, once the stage had been set, things improved and there were a couple of very moving chapters that helped me, as a reader, to begin to warm to the story and the main protagonists. Gifts definitely ends better than it started and I would buy and read the second book, but I think there may be more enjoyable books out there.

Gifts is aimed at the young adult market and the themes are adult enough to completely avoid any thought of condescension. The problem is though, once an author like Ursula Le Guin ahs written a series as excellent as the Earthsea books they will always have their work compared to this high level of literature. Gifts is no Earthsea but enjoyable enough in its own right.

Orrec is the son of the Brantor of Caspromant; Gry the daughter of the Brantors of Barre and Rod. They have grown up together in neighbouring domains, running half-wild across the Uplands.
The people of the domains are like their land: harsh and fierce and prideful; ever at war with one or other of their neighbours, raiding cattle, capturing serfs, enlarging their holdings. It is only the gifts that keep the fragile peace.
The gifts are powers, given to protect the domains: they run from father to son and from mother to daughter.
The Barre gift is calling animals.
The women of Cordemant have the power of blinding, or making deaf, or taking away speech.
The Rodds can send a spellknife into a man's heart, or cut his throat, or maim as they please, if he's in sight.
The Callems can move heavy things by word and gesture – even buildings, even hills.
And Brantor Ogge of Drummant has the gift of slow wasting.
The Caspro gift  is the worst and best of all; it is the gift of undoing: an insect, an animal, a place …
Orrec and Gry are the heirs to Caspro and Barre. Gry's gift runs true, but unlike her mother, she will not use it to call animals for the hunt. Orrec too has a problem, for his gift of undoing is wild: he cannot control it – and that is the most dangerous gift of all …

From: Gifts by Ursula Le Guin

8/10 Gifts is no Earthsea but enjoyable enough in its own right.

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