If you missed it, I reviewed the original Earthsea trilogy – which was technically a reread for me, but it felt like a new experience because I couldn’t remember, like, any details. Now I’m back to review the later books in the series!
Tehanu by Ursula K. LeGuin
My Edition: Paperback – 281 pages – 2001 – Aladdin Paperbacks – ISBN: 0689845332
Arha has gone from being a priestess of unnamed gods to a farmer’s widow when Ged comes back into her life. The two find their lives changed, but they aren’t allowed to settle comfortably into old age. Arha, now going by her true name of Tenar, is caretaker for a strange, scarred girl, Therru. Ged is struggling with the loss of his powers. Yet they must find something of the people they used to be if they wish to help Therru.
The fourth book in the series has the same vibe as the first three. Hmm, I kind of hate myself for using the word vibe, but I’m going to keep that in, even though I could easily just delete all of this and start over.
Anyway! This is another fantasy book that’s about the characters and their personal journey. The magical elements don’t really come into play until the end of the book. I really enjoyed revisiting Tenar’s life as an adult, moreso even than Ged. Yes, Ged is the hero of the trilogy, but he kind of lost some charm in the last book.
What I found interesting is that Ged began his journey as a student of magic and eventually became Archmage, but is now brought low, feeling helpless and useless after the events of the third book. Tenar began her journey as a nameless girl, The Eaten One, and then had a moment of fame after Ged brought her to Havnor. In this book we learned she married a farmer, settled down, and had a couple kids. Now we find she’s windowed, her kids are grown and gone and she’s caring for a young girl, Therru.
I feel like there’s a lot happening in this book, but it’s sort of lowkey. Things heat up at the end though – so if you enjoyed the flow of the first book, I think you’ll enjoy this too. I really loved the relationship between Tenar and Therru and I’d read so many more books about those two. Especially after the ending! If, like me, you were a little bummed by the third book, I think Tehanu will bring you back into the magic of Earthsea.
Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
My Edition: Paperback – 394 pages – 2001 – HMH – ISBN: 9780547722047
This is a collection of shorts spanning from a couple hundred years prior to the events of A Wizard of Earthsea to those which happened after Tehanu ended.
The Finder – An early tale about another wizard who excels at changing his shape like Ged. This one was a bit boring and felt drawn out. It was neat to learn about the founding of Roke Island and to see lady sorcerers. Had some similar themes to Ged’s tale, but it didn’t quite grab me.
Darkrose and Diamond – A love story about being true to your passions and how the sacrifices we make can affect us.
The Bones of the Earth – This was about Ogion and his master. I loved it. It was sad and sweet and I loved learning more about Ogion’s beginnings with magic and how he got to where he was when we met him through Ged. I think this was my favorite of the collection.
On the High Marsh – Another good one about one of Ged’s adventures as Archmage. A tale of redemption.
Dragonfly – My second favorite of the collection. This story is what ties Tehanu to The Other Wind and brings us up to speed about what’s been happening on Roke after Ged left his position as Archmage. I’m always happy to read about another lady with power who isn’t just some hedgewitch. Plus, dragons!
As far as shorts collections go, this didn’t blow me away. But overall I enjoyed the stories and at the very least you need to read Dragonfly if you’re going to continue the series to the final book, The Other Wind.
The Other Wind by Ursula K. LeGuin
My Edition: Paperback – 266 pages – 2012 – HMH – ISBN: 9780547722436
Alder seeks the help of the wizards of Roke after he begins to dream of his wife in the land of the dead. Every night his wife, and then others who are dead, pull him into the Dry Land, trying to gain their freedom. The wizards send him to none other than Ged, who sends the man on to his daughter and wife who are staying with the king. Alder finds himself fighting beside the king, wizards, and even dragons, in order to restore the balance of life and death.
As final stories go, this was a damn good one. In keeping with the tone of the series, this book isn’t an action-packed fantasy adventure. It’s a story about the characters and their lives – both familiar and new. It’s about how the use of magic and the relationship between humans and dragons has changed over the years. It’s a story about the balance between the living and the dead, and the small group who wishes to restore that balance.
I loved being back with Ged, Tenar, Tehanu, and even king Lebannen. We also meet Alder and revisit Irian, from the short Dragonfly. I loved seeing how the events of all the stories shaped the characters we’ve known through several books, as well as the world and the magic in it.
The end was a little less exciting than I’d hoped. I had to read a few scenes a second time because I was like, “Was that it?” But if it had been a showy ending, it wouldn’t have fit with the tone of the series.
I also enjoyed that not everything was tied up in a neat little bow. Obviously, this is the last Earthsea novel we’ll get, but LeGuin intended for it to be the last. I like that there are some lingering questions and the possibility of other stories, even though LeGuin isn’t around to right them. The end struck the right balance for me between resolution and open-ended.
If you like character-driven fantasy, this is a perfect series for you. Now having read the series in its entirety, I’m not sure if it’s one I’ll revisit, but it’s one I’ll hold on to. I love having the original trilogy that was passed down from my mum and knowing that we both enjoyed it as teens. It’s a journey I’m glad I took, even if it’s one I won’t repeat time and time again.