Wednesday 29 January 2014

The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Book 3) - Ursula K. Le Guin

Title: The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Book 3)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1972
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“The Farthest Shore” by Ursula K. Le Guin is the third book in the Earthsea fantasy series and was the final book in the original trilogy although the series has of course been expanded since then. I think that this was my favourite novel in the series, and captivated me in ways that the other novels hadn’t. The scope was grand and the story felt like an epic adventure rather than being a collection of interlinked plot points which was an issue I had with the first novel.

The plot itself follows Ged, the Earthsea series’ most central figure who is now Archmage on the Isle of Roke. When, a young prince named Arren arrives with news that magic is disappearing from the more distant lands in Earthsea, Ged realises that he must head out and seek the cause. So, along with Arren he heads out away from Roke hunting out the cause of this magical loss in the hope that they can reverse it before it encroaches upon Roke itself.

As touched on in my first paragraph, this is a grand adventure that contains all the traditional elements of a fantasy epic; a threat to the entire world, an old and aged hero and a young and untested apprentice. It is exciting and fun in a manner that I hadn’t experienced with the other two books in the series but yet still manages to retain the ability to try and explore complex issues. For example, a prime thread is the novel is an interesting look at the almost universal fear of death in which humanity struggles to come to grips with the idea of future non-existence.

In regards to the writing, well the overall flow of the plot isn’t perfect and can meander a bit into detailed exposition as I have come to expect with Le Guin but there was still enough forward momentum to keep me hooked. The upside of this meandering plot is that once again we really get to visualise and understand both the world and its characters as Le Guin colourfully details everything. It is quite clear to me Le Guin has grown as a writer throughout the original trilogy learning and has managed to keep me both entertained with the plot in addition to enjoyed the world she had created.

One slightly negative observation I had is that there was no real continuation of the story of Tenar, from the previous book “The Tombs of Atuan”. Yes elements of what occurred in that book were touched upon but Tenar was reduced to being mentioned in the odd comment. After getting a real feeling for her in the last book it was disappointing not to see anything about how she moved on in life etc. After doing such a U-turn in the previous book to introduce the reader to her, it was disappointing to see her abandoned.

Overall, this has been my favourite book in the series so far and Le Guin has done a good job in mixing an epic adventure story with her love for exposition and world building. Yes, it doesn’t have the best narrative flow in the world but this isn’t anything new from Le Guin so I think that anyone who has enjoyed the previous books is in for a real treat with this one.


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