Ursula K. Le Guin
Completed 8/25/2018, Reviewed 8/25/2018
This is the third book in the Annals of the Western Shores Trilogy. After finding the first book good and the second book really good, I couldn’t put the one down. Thank goodness I read it on a Saturday. This book was a tour de force. I know now why it won the Nebula. It is a superbly written account of the young life of a slave who embarks on a journey towards freedom. There’s not much of a plot and not much action. But it is truly an engrossing piece of fiction.
The story begins with eleven-year-old Gavir living with his sister as slaves to a wealthy family. His life is relatively easy. His primary job is to sweep. He goes to school and is being trained to be the next teacher at the school. Gav is special, he has powers. One power is that he remembers everything he reads and hears. The other power is that he can remember the future. His sister convinces him to hide his power of remembering because the peoples of the nation in which he is enslaved don’t have such gifts. Some years later, tragedy strikes and Gav runs away. He doesn’t know where he’s going, he just knows he wants to be free and to find a home.
There isn’t much of a plot, it’s all about the story telling. Le Guin has a wonderful way with prose that doesn’t rely on an overabundance of similes. It’s plain and simple story telling with strong nouns and verbs. The story is about a journey that has many interesting situations and many colorful characters. There’s some action, but it’s more like a real life rather than a thriller.
Gavir is the narrator of the story. He’s immediately likeable. His sister Sallo is also a great character. From this series, you really get the sense that Le Guin understands what it is like to be subjugated or enslaved. As slaves, they do not have families, but fortunately, they were both sold to the same family. They rely on each other for support in their lives as slaves. Having been stolen into slavery as very young children, it’s the only life they know. They are treated well by the house’s Mother and Father. Their only problem comes from one of the sons of the family. But the whole time you are reading this, you realize that hey, they’re slaves, not free. Don’t they know better? Well they really don’t until something terrible happens and Gav runs away.
The book is long, and Gav comes upon several groups of people he stays with for long and short periods, but to go into too much detail about them would give too much away. But each step of the journey gives Gav a deeper taste of freedom and a step closer to finding home. He finds his talent for instant memorization makes him an excellent story teller, which gets him on the good side of many of the people he encounters.
I don’t give five stars out that often anymore. Perhaps I’ve become a little more jaded, only rarely getting an emotional reaction to a book. But this one really moved me. I was so engrossed that the mild amount of action towards the end really got to me. And my eyes got a little misty at the very end. This is definitely the best of the three books. It reads as a standalone novel, with the main characters from the other books only appearing at the end. Five out of five stars.