I first read ‘The Wizard of Earthsea’ in 1979. I don’t remember ever having heard of it before, even though it was first published in 1968, but that was a reflection on my reading habits rather than the book. I’d been into Victorian classics up until then and had read very little fantasy at all. Then a friend lent me ‘The Earthsea Trilogy’ and I was hooked. I read all three books in three days. I read the fourth book, ‘Tehanu’ when I got married, because my husband had a copy, and I have just in these past few weeks read the fifth book, ‘The Other Wind’, which I found in a bookshop while we were on holidays in the city.
It’s hard to put a finger on what it is that makes me love these books. I know I’ve recommended them to others and they’ve been unable to see why I should like them so much. I think it has mainly to do with the ‘magic’ of them. By that, I don’t mean the magic that Le Guin describes (though that is brilliant), but the magic of the words she uses and the places she creates. Earthsea isn’t a made-up place while you’re reading. It’s real. Though the places are very strange, they’re so believable that you feel you know them. They’re detailed and clear. Le Guin manages to conjour up, at least for me, images that stick in the mind. I can still imagine the scene where Ged's boat runs aground and he steps out to face the shadow, just as clearly as when I first read it years ago.
The other thing that sets these books apart for me is the characterisation. Her characters are real people, however strangely they may behave. They’re not all tall, dark, handsome men or strong, beautiful women. They have their blemishes, and faults they have to overcome to succeed. Going on their journey with them is a privilege and it’s always sad to reach the end.
What about you? What’s your favourite book and why?