Friday, June 28, 2013

The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

 So, we get to see Ged right away in this book, but the tale is not narrated from his point of view, but from the perspective of a young nobleman, Arren, who has come to the Isle of Roke to beg the mages for help with a problem afflicting his land. It seems that the wizards and the singers who sing the traditional songs have lost their ability to remember the words of their spells and songs, and things are going awry. The mages have heard rumors of such things in other lands, as well, but dismissed them as merely gossip until now. After meeting with the rest of the Masters to discuss the problem, Ged determines that he needs to set off to investigate this on his own, taking along with him only the young man, Arren, in whom he sees perhaps more potential than others do.

So, they travel together to some of the Reaches and discover that wizards everywhere seem to be giving up their magic in order to chase after the willow-the-wisp of eternal life, drawn by the dream voice of a shadowy figure. Even the luck of the Archmage himself seems to run dry, as Arren is kidnapped by slavers, they take on a madman for a guide, and they nearly die of thirst and exposure on the endless seas, trying to find the place where a mysterious wizard has opened the doors between life and death.

This books really has a dark, depressing, and Tolkien-like feel, reminiscent of the seemingly endless pages of The Return of the King, where Frodo and Sam plod their way slowly through the land of Mordor, trying to get to Mount Doom to cast the ring in the fire. It's difficult to keep hope alive and to press on with your quest when all is dark and seems lost. It doesn't exactly have a "happy" ending, but at least there's a few pages when one can breath a sigh of relief, and think that maybe brighter days are yet ahead.

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