Wednesday, August 22, 2018


Ursula K. Le Guin
Completed 8/19/2018, Reviewed 8/20/2018
4 stars

This is the second book in Le Guin’s “The Western Shore” young adult trilogy.  I liked it a lot better than the first book.  I particularly liked the premise, that one nation has invaded a major city and tried to force its religious beliefs on the subjugated people.  Specifically, the invaders have banned reading and writing, forcing the people into illiteracy.  The book says a lot about intolerance and slavery.  It features a seventeen-year-old girl as the main character and I thought she was marvelous.  It also has the two main characters from the first book, although you don’t have to read the first book to get this one.  It’s nearly a stand-alone novel.  After reading this one, I’m really looking forward to the final book, which won the Nebula award for Best Novel in 2008.

The plot is basically about the city, Ansul.  It was once a noted center of learning, featuring a university and a renowned library.  When the Alds conquered Ansul, they destroyed most of the books and punished people for reading and writing with the death penalty.  Memer is a young girl whose mother was raped by one of the invaders.  She is the result of that horrific event.  She lives with a former Waylord of the city, who is basically the patriarch of the family name.  He secretly teaches her how to read and write.  They both have access to a secret library in the house where they have been hiding books that the Alds have not found.  Then a poet and his wife come to town and they seem to be the tipping point in a rebellion to oust the invaders. 

Memer is a wonderful character.  The book is written in first person from her point of view.  Despite being half Ald, she hates them for what they did to her mother and her city.  As a child, she played with the books in the secret library, but when the Waylord offers to teach her to read, she jumps at the chance.  Of course, all this has to be done secretly. 

Then Orrec and Gry (from the first book) come to town.  Orrec is the poet and has been invited by the Gand, the Ald ruler of Ansul, to recite his poetry to him.  They stay in the Waylord’s house and Memer gets close to them, particularly Gry, who becomes a confidant.  You see, Memer’s mother died very young.  So Gry is a strong, positive, female role model for her. 

When the rebellion begins the book gets exciting.  But that’s not to say that the first half of the book is not good.  It’s very good.  It’s just not action packed.  I’ve never read an action packed Le Guin novel, but the rebellion is really well written and exciting.  She captures the anger of the people superbly.  Except for the catalyst event, the rebellion is rather peaceful, which says something about the type of people Le Guin imagined. 

There isn’t much magic in this book.  What magic there is comes towards the end, so to discuss it would be a spoiler, but it’s subtle and has to do with Memer. 

I give this book four stars out of five.  I think I particularly liked the book because it was about books.  Being a YA novel, it was easy reading, and relatively fast-paced.  I read the whole book on a Sunday. 

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