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A Wizard of Earthsea

The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1
Written by: Ursula K. Le Guin
Narrated by: Rob Inglis
Series: Earthsea, Book 1
Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (79 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 listeners say about A Wizard of Earthsea

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

If you like Harry Potter...

This is classic Fantasy Fiction at it's best! It has it all - Wizards, dragons and dark magic.

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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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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.

1 person found this helpful

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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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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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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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  • Marjorie
  • 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.

57 people found this helpful

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    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!

64 people found this helpful

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  • 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.

29 people found this 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.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Brian
  • 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.

22 people found this 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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Robert
  • 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.

37 people found this 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

6 people found this helpful

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  • Nothing really matters
  • 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.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Jefferson
  • 2015-06-13

A Capable Reading of a Fantasy Classic

Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) is a heroic fantasy classic, telling the tale of the growth of Ged, the future Archmage of Earthsea, from a proud and reckless boy hungry for knowledge and power to a young man at peace with himself. Written with poetic concision and grace, Le Guin's novel depicts compelling events in an other world with more thought, imagination, philosophy, and care than the majority of the bloated heroic fantasy novels these days can begin to muster. Her convincing depiction of a fully realized secondary world, Earthsea, complete with legends, traditions, songs, tales, different cultures and environments, and well-thought out and philosophically consistent and cool system of magic, is impressive, especially given how short her book is.

Although the short novel adheres to some genre traditions, as in, for instance, depicting the maturing of a hero through adversity and adventure with female characters playing subordinate roles as flawed teachers, beautiful temptresses, or cute supporters ("weak or wicked as woman's magic"), it also performs (especially given its era) some remarkable subversion and expansion of the genre, as in making Ged and his fellow Archipelagans people of color, depicting a school for wizards with different types of magic to be mastered, and rendering the climactic struggle as something much more interesting and meaningful than a struggle between the hero and an external evil monster.

And Le Guin's prose is a taut pleasure, every sentence being comprised of the perfect words in the perfect order with the perfect syntax and punctuation and rhythm, so that the book may be re-read multiple times, each time with a new appreciation. This is so whether she is describing characters ("He grew wild, a thriving weed, a tall, quick boy, loud and proud and full of temper") or settings ("Now the dark forest-crowned cliffs gloomed and towered high over his boat, and spray from the waves that broke against the rocky headlands blew spattering against his sail, as the magewind bore him between two great capes into a sound, a sealane that ran on before him deep into the island, no wider than the length of two galleys"), or voicing wise aphorisms ("Heal the wound and cure the illness but let the dying spirit go"), or evoking horror ("So it came over the sea, out of the Jaws of Enlad towards Gont, a dim ill-made thing pacing uneasy on the waves, peering down the wind as it came; and the cold rain blew through it") or epiphany ("In that moment Ged understood the singing of the bird, and the language of the water falling in the basin of the fountain, and the shape of the clouds, and the beginning and end of the wind that stirred the leaves: it seemed to him that he himself was a word spoken by the sunlight").

Some words about the audiobook read by Robert Inglis. I have twice listened to Inglis' definitive readings of the entire The Lord of the Rings and think he is ideally suited for Tolkien's masterpiece, giving them their necessary gravitas, pathos, suspense, humor, and beauty (including effectively doing different voices for the different characters—his Gollum, Gandalf, Frodo, and Sam are all perfect—engagingly singing the different genres of songs, and so on). However, perhaps because I first listened to Harlan Ellison's over-the-top but entertaining reading (in which he shouts, screams, whispers, sighs, sobs, sings, laughs, lectures, or just reads, endowing key words with special weight or particular pauses with extra pregnancy), Inglis sounds here a touch pale, thin, and tired. Or is it that Le Guin and Ellison are American, Inglis British? Whereas Ellison's version brought out different aspects of A Wizard of Earthsea that I hadn't noticed before, Inglis' version felt more routine. Mind you, Inglis is an excellent, professional reader, and Ellison's version is no longer available on Audible.

Anyway, people who like philosophical, poetic, concise, and original fantasy should read Le Guin’s Earthsea books, beginning with this one.

11 people found this helpful