Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Wizard of Earthsea cover Tombs of Atuan cover Farthest Shore cover
A Wizard of Earthsea

The Tombs of Atuan

The Farthest Shore

Covers above are from Bantam books editions published in the late 1970s. Illustrated by Ruth Robbins.
A Wizard of Earthsea-183 pages | The Tombs of Atuan-146 pages | The Farthest Shore-197 pages
Current editions of these books have different covers.

There are more Earthsea books than this "trilogy". Le Guin has in recent years written more books in the Earthsea cycle.

The Earthsea books are classics of high fantasy.  Originally marketed for teenagers, these books gained much wider appeal.  Set on an archipelago on an ocean world, they involve the Wizard Ged, also called Sparrowhawk, at different points in his life.

A Wizard of Earthsea
Ged is a peasant boy from Gont with a gift of magic.  He goes to the School of Wizards on Roke Island.  Attempting to prove his superiority with magic he recklessly brings forth a shadow being from the realm of the dead that he must confront.

The Tombs of Atuan
Ged is encountered years later in an dark, underground labyrinth by the young High Priestess Arha, also called Tenar.  She was taken from her family as a girl to become a priestess to the Nameless Ones.  Ged is a powerful wizard seeking the missing half of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, on which is engraved the broken Rune of Peace.  She makes him her prisoner, but sees that she is bound by meaningless ritual.

The Farthest Shore
Ged is the older experienced Archmage of Roke investigating with young prince Arren of Enlad a mysterious disappearing of magic.  Mages can no longer do spells.  They adventure far to the south, and are led to the dragons' islands in the west.  Ged closes the wound in the world, but it takes all his power to do so.

Magic on Earthsea uses the power of true names.  There is a balance between light and dark, male and female, and life and death.

Tehanu cover Tehanu (1990)

"The Last Book of Earthsea"

1990 Nebula Award winner for best novel
Bantam books -252 pages
border cover art by Ian Miller
Spot cover art by John Jude Palencar

Years after the first three Earthsea books were published, Le Guin wrote a fourth Earthsea book, Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea.  It takes place immediately after events in The Farthest Shore, and features Tenar of the Tombs, her adopted daughter Therru, and Ged.  Tehanu revisits and redefines society depicted in the previous Earthsea books.

Tales from Earthsea
An Earthsea story collection first published in 2001.  Contains five stories, including "Dragonfly", first published in the anthology Legends (1998), which is the story of Dragonfly, also called Irian of Way, a girl with an unknown gift of power who travels to the School for Wizards on Roke to learn.

The Other Wind
A new Earthsea cycle novel first published in 2001.  The Other Wind involves mending the boundary between the living and the dead.  A humble sorcerer, Alder, makes a journey.  Ged, Tenar, and Tehanu are re-encountered.  There's a confrontation with dragons.

How we each rated these books (0 - 10, 10 is the best)
A Wizard of Earthsea The Tombs of Atuan The Farthest Shore stack of books
Dan 7 6 7
Cheri 7 7 7
Aaron 6 5 -
Lars - - -
Amy 7 7 7
Barb 8 8 -
Cynthia 7 7 7
Jackie 7 7 6

Our book group has also read the following books by Ursula K. Le Guin:
-- The Lathe of Heaven  in July 1994
-- The Left Hand of Darkness  in March 1995
-- The Dispossessed   in July 2001
-- The Telling   in May 2004

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-    ) is an important US writer of science fiction and fantasy. The "K" in her name is for Kroeber, her maiden name.

1972 Newbery Honor Book for The Tombs of Atuan
1969 Nebula Award for novel for The Lefthand of Darkness
1970 Hugo Award for novel for The Lefthand of Darkness
1973 Hugo Award for novella "The Word for World is Forest"
1974 Nebula Award for novel for The Dispossessed
1974 Nebula Award for short story "The Day Before the Revolution"
1974 Hugo Award for short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"
1975 Hugo Award for novel The Dispossessed
1988 Hugo Award for novelette "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight"
1988 World Fantasy Award for novella "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight"
1990 Nebula Award for novel Tehanu
1995 Nebula Award for novelette "Solitude"
1995 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement
1996 Retrospective Tiptree Award for The Left Hand of Darkness
1995 Tiptree Award for "The Matter of Seggri"
1997 Tiptree Award for "Mountain Ways"
2002 World Fantasy Award for novel The Other Wind
2005 PEN Center USA Children's literature award for Gifts

A Wizard of Earthsea was awarded the Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Excellence in 1969.  The Tombs of Atuan was an Newbery honor book.  The Farthest Shore was the National Book Award Winner for Children's Books in 1973.

Earthsea series
Le Guin's Earthsea fantasy books are A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1970), The Farthest Shore (1972), Tehanu (1990), Tales from Earthsea (collection of 5 stories, 2001), and The Other Wind (2001).  The novella "Dragonfly" in the anthology Legends (1998) is a prequel to the novel The Other Wind (2001).

Hainish series
Many of Le Guin's early works are science fiction set in the Hainish universe, where descendants of people from the planet Hain inhabit the Galaxy.  The series, which spans 2500 years of future history and features the interstellar Ekemen, includes the books Rocannon's World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), City of Illusions (1967), The Lefthand of Darkness (1969), The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974), and The Telling (2000).

Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995) is comprised of four Hainish connected novellas.  "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" (1971) and "The Word for World is Forest' (1972) are other novellas of the Hainish sequence.  Six out of the eight stories in the collection The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (2002, includes "The Matter of Seggri" and "Solitude") are set in the Hanish worlds of the Ekumen.

Orsinia books
Orisinan Tales (1976) and Malafrena (1979) are fantasies set in the 19th century in a fictional European country.

Annals of the Western Shore YA series:
--Gifts (2004)
--Voices (2006)
--Powers (2007)

Other works
The Lathe of Heaven (1971) is a classic SF novel of alternate worlds and the problems of playing God.  In it a man's dreams can create alternative realities.  The Lathe of Heaven was made into a PBS made-for-TV movie in 1980 starring Bruce Davison, Kevin Conway, and Margaret Avery.  It was remade in 2002 with James Caan, Lukas Haas, Lisa Bonet, and David Strathairn.  (See the 1980 film - webmaster recommendation).

Always Coming Home (1985) explored the matriarchal society of the Kesh through prose, verse, drawings, and music.

A Very Long Way from Anywhere Else (1976) is a short young adult novel.  The Beginning Place (1980, also titled Threshold) is a young adult fantasy in which two adolescents pass through to another world.

The Eye of the Heron (1983) is SF.

The Hugo winning novella "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" (1973) is a tale about the cost of the good life, a moral lesson about the funding of Utopia.

Lavinia (2008) is a novel set in ancient Italy based on character in The Aeneid.

Le Guin has also written number of other works -- essays, poetry, and prose -- including some for children.  This is a incomplete list, a sample of a few of these, there are more.  Sixty Odd (1999) contains 69 poems.  Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989) is non-fiction, essays and reviews.  The Wave in the Mind : Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004) is a non-fiction collection.  The Catwings series - Catwings (1988), Catwings Return (1989), Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings (1994), and Jane on Her Own (1999) - are children's fantasies.  Tom Mouse (2002) is a children's picture book.

Short fiction collections
Le Guin's short fiction is collected in The Wind's Twelve Quarters (1975), Orisinan Tales (1976), The Compass Rose (1982), Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences (1987), Searoad: Chronicles of Klatsand (1991, mainstream stories), A Fisherman of the Inland Sea (1994), Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995), Unlocking the Air and Other Stories (1996), Tales from Earthsea (2001), The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (2002), and Changing Planes (2003).

Aaron's book review of The Telling on Fantastic Reviews
Our book club's page for The Dispossessed
Our book club's page for The Telling
official web site of author Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin - Wikipedia
Ursula K. LeGuin's Magical World of Earthsea
Strange Horizons: Review of The Telling people | Ursula K. Le Guin
Science Fiction Weekly Interview - Ursula K. Le Guin
SCIFI.COM | Earthsea
The World of Earthsea

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This page was last updated October 17, 2008