I know. How can I call myself a fantasy writer if I haven’t read Ursula Le Guin? (By the way, can I call myself a fantasy writer? My one book, The Sunlight Plane, is not fantasy. But that’s definitely the genre I want to pursue going forward!)
The doyen of the genre, Ursula Le Guin has an impressive bibliography to say the least. She has written novels, short stories, and even poems, tirelessly creating fantasy worlds that examine issues of gender and politics.
And if I’m being honest, though I’ve always wanted to read her, I’ve been…let’s say, intimidated. With such an extensive bibliography, where do you begin?
Well, I was told to start with A Wizard of Earthsea.
This novel follows Ged (aka Sparowhawk), a powerful young wizard, as he is hunted by a shadow of his creation. This is a coming of age novel (I believe that’s because it was targeted at young adults). Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.
Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.
Initially, I was hesitant to read it, because the writing style is far outside of what I’m used to. I realised only as I read this book, that the writers I generally enjoy have a very snappy, youthful voice. This book, however, reads like a fairytale. The sort of story your grandma would tell you. There’s something very distant and otherworldly about the writing style. I was particularly intrigued by how Le Guin handled character interactions, because I got the sense that this book was very conservative with its use of dialogue as a storytelling tool (as opposed to books that I’ve personally read before). It was all rather new to me.
But you know what? It read like a dream. I never even felt the time pass. I’m really happy that I read this novel, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Le Guin’s work. She’s one of those writers I just need more from. And she’s definitely a writer that every fantasy novelist should read at some point.