Ursula K. Le Guin
Completed 12/6/2018, Reviewed 12/8/2018
This is the sixth and final novel of the Earthsea Cycle. It has the same tone and form as the previous books. It’s short, contemplative, and wonderful. The basic plot is saving the world of Earthsea, this time from a breach in the wall between life and death. All the characters from previous books come back to join a new sorcerer in the battle. It moves a little more quickly than the previous books, but still, the star is the prose, not the action. It is a fine conclusion to a wonderful set of fantasy stories.
Alder is a sorcerer who mends things. Not a trained mage, he does not have a lot of the power that we’ve seen other mages attain in the previous books. However, for some reason, he is having dreams of the divide between life and death in the far west where the wall that separates the two is being torn down by the dead. If the wall comes down, the dead invade Earthsea. He is sent to Sparrowhawk, the former Archmage, who spent all his magic in book three in the land of the dead and now lives an unassuming life as a farmer. Sparrowhawk listens to Alder’s dreams and sends him to King Lebannen where his wife Tenar and daughter Tenahu are helping the King. In addition, there is a rise in the attacks by dragons throughout Earthsea. The four of them, together with Dragonfly, the dragon-woman from the last book, and other mages from the Council of Nine at Roke come together to figure out how to stop the dragon attacks and to solve the crisis at the farthest shores of Earthsea.
This book felt like it had more action and movement than its predecessors, even though there is a lot of discussion of what to do and how to do it. There was only one part that dragged a little toward the middle of the book. The rest was rather quickly paced for an Earthsea novel. There detail isn’t so much in the journeys and the settings, it’s in the dialogue, which is riveting at times. The plot is a little more complex in this book as well, with several things going on to keep the book moving.
The contemplative nature of the book appears in that it still examines many of the questions that were raised in the previous books: mage versus sorcerer/witch, men versus women, and dragon versus human. All these are explored in this book, perhaps tying up loose ends from the discussions that appeared in the previous volumes, but coming together to solve the crisis at hand.
I give this book four stars out of five. I feel like I’ve already used up all my superlatives in my reviews for the other books, repeating myself. It’s a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series. I’m glad I finally took the time to reread the first three as well as discover the last three. Next, I will be reading several of her Hainish cycle books, the last and the first few and will see how these compare to the greatness that is Earthsea.