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A Wizard of Earthsea

The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1
Written by: Ursula K. Le Guin
Narrated by: Rob Inglis
Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (49 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"The shapeless mass of darkness split apart. It sundered, and a pale spindle of light gleamed between his open arms. In the oval of light there moved a human shape: a tall woman...beautiful, and sorrowful, and full of fear." - from A Wizard of Earthsea, first in a tetralogy that includes The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore, introduces the listener to Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, known also as Sparrowhawk. When Sparrowhawk casts a spell that saves his village from destruction at the hands of the invading Kargs, Ogion, the Mage of Re Albi, encourages the boy to apprentice himself in the art of wizardry. So, at the age of 13, the boy receives his true name - Ged - and gives himself over to the gentle tutelage of the Master Ogion. But impatient with the slowness of his studies and infatuated with glory, Ged embarks for the Island of Roke, where the highest arts of wizardry are taught. There, Ged's natural talents enable him to surpass his classmates in little time. But when his vanity prompts him to summon Elfarran, the fair lady of the Deed of Enlad, he unleashes a shapeless mass of darkness - the shadow.

©1968 Ursula K. Le Guin (P)1992 Recorded Books, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved this book and series since I was a teen

this has always been one of my favorite books in one of my favorite series. It is dark and epic and grandiose. The protagonist is likeable, despite his fallability, or maybe because of it. His growth is great to follow.

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really super good

it was very enjoyable to read, I had no problem finishing it in a week. can't wait to read the rest

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    5 out of 5 stars

Best book I've read in a long time

Other than maybe the Lord of the Rings trilogy this is the best book I have "read" in years. However unlike LOTR this book is far more accessible, and much easier to finish. Additionally Rob Inglis's performance as narrator was fantastic. Overall 5/5 in every way.

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Very wizardly beginning

Narrator was tolerable.

if you're steeped in the wizard stories of popular culture like I am, and already a reader of more contemporary fantasy, then this book comes off a bit generic.

a definite descendent of Lord of the Rings, Le Guin crafts her own magical world of Earthsea. A coming of age and You're a Wizard Ged tale ensues. many tomes are read and paths travelled.

good enough that I will check out the next book

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  • Krg
  • 2019-05-02

Mostly charming

The story was clearly written at a time in which the same sort of action beats that are required to hold people's attention didn't exist. for that reason I appreciate the author's almost Tolkien like attention to detail. Unfortunately the style of writing also makes for some fairly anticlimactic moments. The build-up is long, well written, and still pretty interesting—but the moments of actually encounter, don't get as much attention I wish they would have.

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Wish there had been more

I was so relieved when I got to the end. There was so nothing here. World development was good, but oh I never really knew any of the people. The narrator even seemed bored with it. Glad it was short.

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Reads like a bards tale.

it is a strangely written story but overall a decent book but kinda ok. nothing spectacular but ok.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Finance Guy
  • 2010-08-03

Elegant & unique fantasy, deliciously performed

I can't believe I didn't listen to or read this book sooner. Ursula K. Le Guin has rekindled my believe that fantasy can be a legitimate literary genre.

Charming and entertaining like a fairy tale but simultaneously dripping with the suspense, drama, and authenticity of a Viking Saga or Epic Poem, A Wizard of Earthsea (the first of the series) cannot be ignored by any serious fantasy reader. So much sub-par fantasy is written in this, age of World of Warcraft and Eragon, that it's refreshing to have Ursula K. Le Guin to discover and delight in.

The narrator of this book makes it sound like he is recounting an ancient tale around some campfire in the Iron Age. Amazing!

54 of 58 people found this review helpful

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  • Marjorie
  • Lafayette, CA, United States
  • 2012-05-14

A little gem, excellently narrated.

A Wizard of Earthsea is the first installment of Ursula K. Le Guin's classic fantasy. Having read the Earthsea novels (five in all, plus a collection of short tales) years ago, I was very happy with this audio version, which is beautifully done. Re-visiting Earthsea, it's interesting to notice how many of what are now conventions of fantasy writing were in fact pioneered by Le Guin so long ago.

One thing that's different about her books: the writing is beautiful but spare. She can tell you in a few paragraphs what other fantasy writers seem to need long chapters to explain. Each of the Earthsea books comes in at something around 200 pages, quite a contrast to the bloated tomes of so many contemporary fantasy writers.

41 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • B. Mertz
  • 2011-06-02

This one is a classic for a reason

Incredibly engaging, masterfully crafted, full of some of the best-written and most complex wizards you will find in literature, A Wizard of Earthsea is the fantasy genre at its absolute finest.

Those of us who read a lot of fantasy have read too many "kid goes to wizard school" books. Many are badly written with flat characters and predictable plotlines. Ursula Le Guin dazzles in this book, which though originally published in 1968, reads as fresh and new and inspiring as all great art does. The old fantasy archetypes are brilliantly and creatively revisited, and adventure abounds.

Anyone who loves fantasy will love Earthsea, and those who don't may find this an ideal introduction. Kids, adults, you name it, Earthsea is short, well-paced, suspenseful, epic, and a delight to read. This audiobook version is excellent.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • Brian
  • Seattle, WA USA
  • 2015-02-03

An old favorite beautifully realized

I had forgotten how beautiful and spare LeGuin's writing can be. Here she's like a cross between Tolkien and Hemingway: lyrical, but no extraneous cruft.

I am a big fan of the performer/narrator, Rob Inglis, who can also be heard reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I was so happy to find more opportunities to listen to him read to me.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah Clarke
  • 2015-08-08

Classic Ursula Le Guin never gets old

This is an archetypal story told much like a ballad from times of old. It is sparse yet full of detail at the same time. The narrator readsbeautifully, with feeling, pacing himself lovingly through the tail. I felt like I was a child again listening to my granddad. It is a wonderfully told story that I can't wait to listen to again.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 2013-05-09

A Classic

While Ursula K. Le Guin wrote several novels about the fantasy world of Earthsea, A Wizard of Earthsea appears to be the first of the main cycle by that name. I found it difficult to pin down whether the series is written for children and/or adults. I concluded that while there are a number of philosophical themes that adults could appreciate, the target audience was probably that of a younger age. Let’s say YAs.

Further, on the subject of age, this is basically the coming of age story of a young mage named Ged who is drawn to wizardry and develops into just that as the story unfolds. There’s much in the way of magic, spells and personal discovery along the way. However, as Ged learns, all of the power and might of of a wizard comes with a price. Wizardry is not for the faint-hearted nor is its magic lightly wielded by the ignorant or arrogant. Much of this is taught Ged by Ogion his primary mentor along with his own life’s little (and not so little) foibles in and around Earthsea. Does all this sound a bit familiar?

The monster of the story we learn is… uh, not so fast. That would be a major spoiler. And I believe the book is worth reading to discover that as well as the other things Ged learns along his way through apprenticeship and personal discovery. The book is very straight forward. That appears to be Le Guin’s style. After recently reading a bunch of China Mielville prior to Earthsea, the latter was a refreshingly, relaxing read. However, we probably should not be fooled by her simplicity. Contained within the pages are a depth and breath that can be easily missed if we’re not paying attention. What can I say; it’s obviously a classic and who could not recommend that.

36 of 44 people found this review helpful

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  • Cai
  • 2016-03-17

A classic: 2018=50 years in print

I first read this in the 70s. It was among the first fantasy novels I encountered, and hooked me into the gene. It was a delight to encounter it once again.

These days we tend to compare magic systems and world building, but when LeGuin was writing it was as one of the pioneers of modern fantasy. If it seems familiar at times, that would be because she helped to chart these waters. After 40 years, I had forgotten much of the story. To me, it still stands strong and tall on its own.

As this is an old school audio book, the narrator doesn't use character voices, and apparently didn't need to. His resonate deep voice carries the story along in a strong, clear, captivating tone.

There was a curious moment when out of nowhere came instructions to switch to the second cassette. But that adds to the old school charm of the book.

I would recommend this book to people who can enjoy a fantasy book for more than its action. It is appropriate for YA, with any dark elements being fairly tame. There is a coming of age element to the book. In fact, it has many delightful layers of elements to uncover if you choose to dig in. But some will want to know that there is not a significant love interest.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Brian
  • 2012-04-23

wonderful reminder of an old favorite

What made the experience of listening to A Wizard of Earthsea the most enjoyable?

absorbing the deatail - i tend to speed read so as always listening to books ive read is a treat

What did you like best about this story?

the textured appreciation that one makes mistakes and pays for them

Which scene was your favorite?

hard to say as it all fits togehter in such a balanced manner

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

not really; but i did feel the shared satisfaction of finally facing ones demons

Any additional comments?

Audible needs to present the missing books of the series asap

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Nothing really matters
  • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  • 2016-07-22

I’m not usually into fantasy, but … WOW.

A Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968. Read it and you’ll see that J. K. Rowling borrowed a *surprising* number of its key elements for her Harry Potter series. That said, this and the other Earthsea books struck me as covering a more inventive magical universe. The writing and dialogue are also much better.

It’s interesting to compare the magic in both series. Earthsea magic has less flash and more substance. Potter magic is flashy and occasionally illogical. You can also say the same things about their respective plots.

The Wizard of Earthsea is unconventional. For example, most of the characters are not handsome caucasians and the universe is not some variant of the England of the Middle Ages. Again, it’s interesting to compare this with the Potter series which is quite conventional. And while this book is progressive, the Potter books promote the last acceptable prejudice, that being the one against the overweight. Nice one, J.K.

Earthsea series is now my favourite sci-fi/fantasy series and I’d rank it second only to my favourite series of any type, the Hornblower books. That’s high praise.

After starting this book, I listened in every spare moment and promptly downloaded the next book as soon as I finished this one. I did the same with the second one. All the books are excellently narrated by Rob Inglis, btw.

I highly recommended this and the other two Earthsea books Audible carries. I only wish Audible had the last three books in series.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cliff
  • madison, MS, United States
  • 2013-11-26

A good take on a classic book

Would you listen to A Wizard of Earthsea again? Why?

Yes, the book is as good as I remember as a child.

What was one of the most memorable moments of A Wizard of Earthsea?

The whole world was memorable. Like revisiting an old friend after a long absence.

What do you think the narrator could have done better?

The range of voices could be better. More emotion could be added to the reading, although this may be due to the lyrical Tolkien-esque style of the writing.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No.

Any additional comments?

This is a classic that I read as a child that still holds up. If you've never read the book or series you owe it to yourself. The pacing is slower than a lot of tradtional fantasy and it is still formulaic, but it works. It is more along the lines of Lord of the Rings than current faster paced novels. This is the novel that really popularized the use of true names as a magic system, for that alone it's a classic.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful