The Earthsea trilogy.

“Ogion went on a halfmile or so, and said at last, ‘To hear, one must be silent’.” A Wizard of Earthsea

You might know the story, the one about the boy who had magical powers, who lived with his uncle and had a face mark? A mark given to him by a life threatening situation. This boy had such strong magical powers, that his uncle decided to send him to Wizard school. His name is, no, not Harry Potter. His name is Ged.

Published in 1968, A Wizard of Earthsea if the first book in the Earthsea Trilogy. Today we will talk a bit about the trilogy, and even though it belongs to a larger collection called The Earthsea Cycle, we will focus on the first three books of the trilogy, which were released between 1968 and 1972.

A Wizard of Earthsea book cover
A Wizard of Earthsea book cover

The author of these books is Ursula K. Le Guin. One of the first, if not the first, female sci-fi and fantasy authors. She writes for both genres, and excels at both of them. In my opinion she’s one of the four most influential science fiction authors from the 60s. I put her together with Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.

But back to Earthsea. Although there’s very strong similarities in the beginnings of Harry Potter and Ged, they are very different characters. To begin with, the Earthsea Trilogy has a somber tone to it, and not the comedic tone J.K. Rolling has for her Potter books. Ged is a very pensive and quiet person, the kind that doesn’t give anything away. And you learn how he will deal with conflict as he comes to face it. He is a character that walks straight into the jaws of hell, immutable, and one wonders why on earth would he not turn around and run for the hills. Ged sometimes has a plan and knows exactly what he’s going to do, and sometimes doesn’t. But he never communicates that to the reader, which makes these books so enjoyable to read.

The trilogy is composed of The Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Furthest Shore. This last one being my favourite. All of these books deal with different adventures, and one need not read them in order, necessarily, although I recommend it. You definitely do not want to start with The Tombs of Atuan, since it’s the darkest of the three, and the story moves slowly and half of it is from the point of view of a new character.

A Wizard of Earthsea book cover
Ursula K. Le Guin

If retro fantasy is something that interests you, then I think most of you will enjoy these books. In fact, I would recommend them over The Lord of the Rings. They are considerably shorter, and I would say that Le Guin’s trilogy is more philosophical and deeper than The Lord of The Rings, without sacrificing the fun. The plot always moves forward and there are no side quests. There’s also the fact that they haven’t been spoiled as much, since most people already know too much about the Lord of the Rings but not about The Earthsea Cycle. And yes, I am aware there was an Earthsea TV Show, but it wasn’t very popular. So If you want to take a plunge into classic fantasy, or retro fantasy, this is the place to start.