I'm currently behind on reviews, so don't be surprised if the recent reviews are a bit sparse.

A Wizard of Earthsea

Cover of A Wizard of Earthsea.

Deep wisdom, calm storytelling, and some love shining through: I love Earthsea a lot, and re-reading this book made me very happy. Apart from the near-lyrical style, I was also surprised to remember that the story is quite dense, and there as much story in this book as many others would fit in a trilogy nowadays (growing up, mastering school, mastering the antagonist, for example?).

Plot summary

Beware: full spoilers! Also probably incomplete and possibly incomprehensible.

Sparrowhawk’s/Ged’s youth, but with the information that he’ll go on to become the archmage and a dragonlord. Arrogant child learning magic from the village witch, then apprenticed to Ogion – him of the silence and patience and wisdom –, which is too much and too little for Ged. He instead goes to Roke, and speaks his true name to enter the school. The school’s door is entirely made out of a great dragon’s tooth, it is slightly translucent, carved with a huge detailed tree.

Vetch becomes his friend. He is further along his studies, and is deeply kind. Jasper is his rival. Ged learns the dangers of naming, of changing the world even a tiny bit, of balance – but more in theory than in practice. Ged is impatient and wants to wield magic, damnit! He studies with the Master Namer, learning all the rivers, bays, roads, plants, etc. A young Master is impressed by Ged and permits him more knowledge than is wise. Jasper and Ged have a duel. Ged summons a spirit, a shadow comes along and injures him gravely. The archmage, Nemmerle, dies in defense, and Ged takes a long time to recover, badly scarred in mind and body.

He’s told he’s at risk of being possessed by the shadow, and nowhere is safe except Roke. Vetch leaves and Ged stays, though they exchange names. Ged concludes his studies, and leaves for a township in need of a wizard. He works, and learns to sail. Then he has to take care of dragons, and is victorious, drowning the young ones and making the old one promise on his name to never come to the Archipelago.

He encounters the shade and flees, ending up at a weird castle, that keeps him nearly prisoner. They want to get his cooperation to rule the world with the help of an evil-ish spirit trapped in a stone, but he makes his escape. (The sorceress there is the daughter of the Lord of Re Albi who also baited him into reading a very dangerous spell in his time at Ogion’s). Ged flees as a falcon, and Ogion turns him back into himself. On Ogion’s advice, he hunts the shadow rather than fleeing. Across the sea, encountering a nearly-feral pair of siblings on an island (outcasts of the Imperial family of Kargad). After a third encounter with the shadow, Ged understands that he cannot undo what he did, only finish it.

He finds Vetch, who joins him. They travel, and find the shadow, and Ged speaks his name, and touches it, and they merge.

The last step of learning is to go study with the Master Patterner in the Immanent Grove.



Wait. Manhood is patience. Mastery is nine times patience.


The wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.


All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man’s hand and the wisdom in a tree’s root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.


Go to bed; tired is stupid.


A man, who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life’s sake and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark.


As a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do.