Monday, June 25, 2007

The Other Wind [Review]

Title: The Other Wind

Author: Ursula K. LeGuin (her official website)

Copyright: 2001, Harcourt, Inc., ISBN 0151006849

Genre: Fantasy

Length: 246 pages

Summary: A minor wizard, one whose gift is merely the mending of ordinary broken tools, is tormented by dreams of his dead wife reaching out to him. He seeks out Sparrowhawk (Ged) who had once been the Archmage of Roke for advice and solace. That simple beginning to this tale takes the reader on an adventure into Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea -- complete with dragons, distrustful cultures and the need to mend, even perhaps, remake the world she initially introduced us to with the publication of The Wizard of Earthsea in 1968. What has been broken? How can it be mended? No population of Earthsea escapes responsibility for the rupture or obligation to contribute to a solution. Amidst the working out of the larger themes of death, rebirth and acceptance, we follow a rather touching love story between two very awkward individuals. LeGuin's style evokes a haunting sense of greater forces pressing down on her characters even as she lightens events with wry humor. The characters are those that have appeared in the previous four books of this series including Ged, Tenar, Irian, Tehanu, and Lebannon.

If you have read A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu and Tales of Earthsea (a volume of short stories), you will know each of those names. This is one of the few series that I would recommend you read all of the titles in the series in order. It is useful to have done so when you come to consider this, the truly final volume in the series. You'll have a better sense of LeGuin's final conclusion. She has matured since the first book and this is evident in the

Extract: LeGuin's official web site has two excerpts from The Other Wind for sampling her simple but effective writing style (Excerpts One and Two). The simplicity of her writing however does not mean however that the pace of her story-telling is rapid.

Also Relevant: Ursula K. LeGuin is one of my very favorite authors, the one whose books I will run out and buy in hardcover without knowing anything other than the title and her authorship. While I know I have not read everything she's ever written, I have read the bulk of her fiction and non-fiction work.

LeGuin understands mythology. (Re-read the quotes I pulled from Karen Armstrong's A Short History of Myth.) The universe of EarthSea organizes her sense of the way the world operates, its spiritual and physical ecosystems. Her thinking about fantasy, her writing and the differences in the way that men and women tell stories changed over the years as she wrote these books. I think one of the reasons that I enjoy Le Guin's novels so much is because so much of how she experiences the world resonates with my own development and belief system. Odd when you realize that she is more of a Taoist than anything else and I have never found Taoism to be particularly comforting or helpful.

I did not formally commit to participation in Carl's Once Upon A Time challenge. Yet, I did participate perhaps informally, spending time in recent months with various tales of mythology. The Other Wind fits in with that and Le Guin is a master of her craft.

Other reviews of The Other Wind may be found here, here (mind the spoilers), and here.