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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Review: The Farthest Shore

The Farthest Shore is the last book in the original trilogy of Earthsea (I remember the fourth book, Tehanu, being disappointing, so I might very well not go on the review the next two).

Set during the twilight of Ged's career as Archmage of Earthsea, this book is of course, about the youth who accompanies him on this last adventure, Arren. Arren apparently has quite the destiny ahead of him, but he doesn't know what it is. Ged though, having been stuck as the Archmage for years, now leaps at the latest quest as a means of leaving Roke (and his responsibilities).

And what is the danger this time? Magic is fading --- or so it seems. Sorcerers have forgotten the true names of things, and men have started wondering if magic is real. Ged and Arren run around in a wild goose chase until Dragons start asking Ged for help. Now Le Guin (for what she thought was the last book) pulls out all stops, granting us dragons upon dragons, a trip across the Farthest shore, and Ged giving up his magic for one final feat.

The theme of this novel is death and the acceptance thereof. I'm not sure I approve of Ursula Le Guin's philosophical "death is part of life" approach, as I am very much in favor of Dylan Thomas' approach:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Nevertheless, as a young adult novel that still bears up to reading years later as an adult, this is one of the rare ones. I do feel that Le Guin cops out at the end and grants us a less than satisfying ending as a result, but I suspect that many of her readers will disagree, having found the ending to their taste. Recommended, though less so (again) than A Wizard of Earthsea

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