Monday, May 11, 2015

The Dry Lands

Hello All, did you all have a fabulous weekend?  I most certainly did and it included finishing a couple of books.  On that got finished was The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. LeGuin the third book in the Earthsea series.  How did it stack up to the previous two books?  I'll tell you, but first, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Arren, a prince of one of the islands of Earthsea has come to the school of magic on Roke to bring tidings of magic disappearing.  According to the young prince the words of Making that are used in sorcery no longer have power and strange instances are occurring.  Ged called Sparrowhawk, the Archemage of Earthsea decides to investigate as this is not the first instance of this that he has heard of.  He takes Arren with him, and setting out in his little magic boat Lookfar sets out to find out what he can.  The duo's first stop is the city of Hort on the island of Wathort where they encounter people Ged (who is in disguise) knew to be wizards.  These wizards however now deny ever having any real magic, instead calling it tricks that they no longer remember.  One magician in particular, a man by the name of Hare tells them that he has given up his true name and magic to never die.  He tells them that he can lead them to the man that offered this undying gift.  This produces nothing other then
putting both of them in danger and after a bit of an adventure the duo travel on.  They end up on the island of Lorbanery where previously amazingly dyed silks were produced.  What they find now is a town on the edge of ruin, and a population who can no longer remember the arts of their dying and silk making.  Ged and his young friend explore further, eventually coming upon a mad man who is from the family of dyers and is terrified of dying.  He promises to lead the pair to where the man who offers immortality to those who would give up their true names.  He leads them to the island of Obehol where they are attacked.  The mad man leaps into the water and apparently drowns while Ged is seriously injured.  Arren, though quickly losing faith, cares for Ged, keeping him alive until they are found by a group calling themselves the Children of the Open Sea.  These folks are a nomadic people who live on rafts most of the year.  They care for Arren and Ged until they are well enough to travel, and the raft people themselves start to feel the effect of the draining magic.  The dragon Orm Embar comes to Ged on the raft and tells him to come to the island of Selidor, the island of dragons, where the dark wizard can be found.  As they approach the island the pair notice that the dragons, an ancient and wise race of sentient beings are acting as wild animals.  They learn that the dark wizard is draining the very life out of the world, causing the dragons and all wizards and magic users to lose the language of Making, which is what the whole world is founded on.  Ged and Arren go to the Dry Lands, the land of death and find the hole in which the life force is flowing through.  Ged gives up his wizardry to close the hole and he and Arren fight their way back to life.  The ancient dragon Kallesin takes the two back home where Ged makes it clear that he thinks that Arren is the to be the King of Earthsea, a throne that had been vacant for a very long time.  Arren is crowned King Lebannen (his true name) and Ged sails away.
As with most of my synopsis, this hardly does this book justice.  In some ways I don't think you can really sum up this book, as it is more of a book of ideas then a full on story.  As with the last book in this series, Ged plays a role, but is not the central character.  Arren fills the role of the main protagonist and it is his journey we follow, with Ged as a companion.  I like this idea of Ged being an almost Merlin type character in this world, with his own story, his own deeds, but always being a part, not the focus of the larger history and story of the world of Earthsea.  This book gave us more of the history and culture of Earthsea, we learn of the prophecy of the King who will finally reunite the fragmented islands of Earthsea.  We learn a bit about the Balance, which is what governs magic and life in this world.  We also get a better look at the ancient dragons that inhabit this world (and are one of my favorite parts).  We learn of Ged's status as a dragonlord, and snatches of his time searching for the ring of the great wizard Erreth-Akbe, which we read snippets of in the last book.  We also got to
travel to some new islands, and meet the Children of the Open Ocean, who I absolutely adored.  All of this added to the incredible world building that has been going on through out the books in this series.  The story on the other hand, just didn't do it for me the way the first two books did.  In some ways it felt like every other "a man/woman/being tries to defy death and in the process makes a huge mess of the country/world and some 'good' guy who is not afraid of death, or learns to not be afraid of death comes and fixes it, usually at great cost to himself" story that ends up in series that go on for a while.  I feel like I have read this story before and got nothing new out of it.  This is not to say it is not a good story...just one I felt like I had read before.  I also felt that the pacing started to drag a little, it felt like maybe the author was going for a couple of stories before deciding to settle on the Dry Lands one and never completely wove everything together.  Again, this is just how I felt reading the book.  I did feel that the author gave us a ton of great stuff for the world that we have been getting to know, and put in enough stuff for me to look forward to reading the next one.  I hope we get more of the dragons, more of the story of Earthsea and more of the people who populate this diverse, yet cohesive world.  I give this book 6 out of 10 magic staffs and recommend it to anybody who is reading the series.  Happy Reading Everybody!
How do you feel about the "defeating death" storyline?  What world have you read about that feels complete in history and people?  Is it sad that I find any book taking over two weeks to finish "a long time"?

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