The Farthest Shore – a review

Philosophical

Captivating

Conclusion (of the Earthsea trilogy)

I have only just moments ago finished The Farthest Shore, the conclusion of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy.

I need a moment to catch my breath and slow my heartbeat.

I’m still trying to verbalize my feelings about the book.

Let me say, the conclusion of this book, as with the previous two books, is amazing (if you’re interested in my reviews of those books you can find them here and here).  Le Guin manages to explore philosophical and ethical questions in a manner that drives the stories but never overshadows them.  At the end of this book, I find that I keep thinking about her take on life and death and their inextricable connection.

I’m not going to recap the novel, you can check Wikipedia for that.

The Farthest Shore, Ursula Le Guin, fantasy, dragons, wizards, magic, books,  Earthsea trilogyI would recommend this book, and this series, to fantasy readers.  I would, however, caution potential readers.  These books are not easy reads, they require thinking and hard work.  Like so much in life, there is a lot of work put into building up for the fireworks.  If you are willing to put the work into these books, you will definitely be rewarded.  If you prefer reading books for their face value stories, then I can recommend some others that you will find much more enjoyable.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Descriptive

Immense (yet short)

Magical

I’ve looked at the Earthsea trilogy throughout the years but I never read it.  Then I saw that Anna over at Booknotized had read it.  And really, even without the review that was enough to get me to give it a chance.  That and I found the first two books of the trilogy at the thrift store last week.  Boo-ya!

I thought this book was a very slow moving book.  There is a lot of description and often I felt that it was through the description that the plot moved.  Frequently I find slow moving books boring.  However, this book was anything but boring.  The description created an absolutely believable world.  The characters moved, spoke, and acted in ways that fit with the world that Le Guin created.  Even though the book is description heavy, I never felt I was led away from the plot just to read pretty descriptive prose, every word painstakingly chosen to be true to the world of Earthsea.  And while  I can appreciate the challenge of a an epic fantasy tale being told in such sparse language, Le Guin never shows the work it required.  Instead it felt as though she had effortlessly recorded this detailed world.

The protagonist, Ged, in the folly of his youth releases a demon.  And now he is the only that can save himself and possibly many, many others from the evil the demon would unleash.  In the climax of the book the two face.  It is good versus evil.  It is dark versus light (and as I’ve admitted before, that is my kind of conflict!).  And in a beautiful twist the climax is resolved.  The true beauty of the twist is how simple and logical it is yet the twist isn’t predictable or common.

I can’t wait to read the second novel.  And I should probably go get the third (because I hate waiting for books when I’m in the middle of a series).  If you’re a lover of fantasy this book needs to be added to your list.  And this book needs to be discussed.  Have a friend read it too, so you can have someone with whom you can converse.

A Wizard of Earthsea

George R.R. Martin’s children’s book: The Ice Dragon

Magical

Conceptual

Lacking (in my humble opinion)

As a lover of fantasy books I have read George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. An epic story with battles, murder, love scenes, corruption, etc.  A story, while fabulous, entirely unsuitable for children.  So imagine my surprise (coupled with delight) at finding a children’s book written by Martin.

Let me begin by saying the concept of this story is phenomenal.  An ice dragon, the antithesis of fire-breathing dragons so often written about, takes main stage and becomes the companion of a particular little girl.  In all my fantasy forays I’ve never encountered a cold dragon.  How incredible to take a dragon, which is normally associated with heat and fire, and make it icy cold.  And then to take a creature who is an icy, cold killer and give it a heart and make it love a little girl.

This concept should create a book that is pure magic…but…I was a little disappointed.  Maybe the fault is mine.  I do read a lot of YA literature, but as far as children’s literature, well let’s just say that journey began about 8 months ago and is pretty much confined to books with rhymes.  So maybe I don’t have a good understanding on what children can understand in a book.  Nonetheless, as I say before, I was a little disappointed.  This book left me wanting more.  I wanted more description.  I wanted less telling and more showing.  I wanted characters with more depth.

The idea was fascinating, but the idea on it’s own couldn’t make a magical book.  Maybe I should stick to teen literature.

The Ice Dragon

What do you think?  Is this a really well written children’s book; are my expectations skewed?  And what are some well-written children’s books that I should read to get a better idea of this genre?  Help a reader out!

 

Book Review: The Assassin King by Elizabeth Haydon

One

Small

Flaw

Seeing as this book is actually the sixth book in the series, I’m not going to recap much (if any) of the previous books.

This book was good.  If I had no other responsibilities I doubt I would have put it down.  Like so many good fantasy novels this book is ultimately about good versus evil.  And Elizabeth Haydon has done a beautiful job creating a world and characters where this plot line comes to life.

Haydon introduces a few new characters to her audience.  And like so many times in prior novels she gives you a glimpse of who they are and then slowly reveals more aspects of them.  The rather flat character you first see becomes more real as each encounter with them shows another flaw or strength or gives more history to explain how they became the person they are.  Haydon is gifted at taking archetypal characters and then adding so much dimension to them they become completely believable people.

In this book, more pieces fall into place and so the audience’s understanding of the conflict broadens even more.  One worry I have, the story keeps getting bigger and bigger, in that manner it reminds me of Robert Jordan’s series which got so big it became a bit of a mess (a mess I personally loved.)  I hope Haydon is able to keep her story on track.

While pieces are falling into place this book lacks an overall arc.  It really seems to be setting up for the next book.  And so the conclusion of this book (more so than her previous books) doesn’t have that feeling of completeness.  There is no single great conflict contained in this book and so there is no single battle and no single outcome at the end.  Yet, there are several smaller conflicts and those conflicts coupled with characters the readers already love make this book a delicious addition to her series.

The flaw, if you were waiting to hear it, is simply that the book is over.  And the next book isn’t written yet.  If you haven’t begun the series, maybe wait until she writes the concluding book.  Here is a lesson I should have learned several unfinished series ago: don’t start a series until the last book is written.  It is painful to wait years and years for that conclusion.

The Assassin King