Friday, March 09, 2012

Review: Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin (Updated)

The Earthsea Trilogy Cover (First Edition, circa '70s)
New isn't always better and old  isn't always worse. And this is true to some fantasy novels I read. For example: Eragon (Inheritance Cycle) which fall to the first category while Earthsea trilogy fall to other category. So allow me to add my review to all review about Earthsea Trilogy.

This story (or stories) is actually an old novels from circa '70s, starting by A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971) and The Farthest Shore (1972). But this trilogy then expanded by two more novels (Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, 1990; and The Other Wind, 2001) and one short stories compilation (Tales from Earthsea, 2001). But I just want to review the original trilogy, while the extension books I will put it on the other post.

When I start reading A Wizard if Earthsea, I brace myself for another long explanation with old-style narration novels. And boy, I'm not disappointed. This book has those oldie kind of story telling. BUT, after reading all three books, I just can't stop myself to say how sweet it was! Yes, this book has those smooth, flowing and feathery style. Not the stuffed-kind, but fresh-and-sweet-kind of story telling.

Just like other (epic) fantasy novels, we will met long explanation about the origin of the main character(s): how they born and grow up (both in mind and in power), etc. But it's all packed on simple and beautiful way, with enough detail to satisfy, and sweet-and-bitter parts on it. Brilliant.

Characterization is pretty good, enough dept to be fascinating, but not too deep to be boring. But I just can't shake the feeling how so many characters are have this sweet and/or innocent nature to them. On every book you will find them, mark my words. The antagonist too, are rather simple (as in character, not in intelligence). But I like how LeGuin put philosophy on her stories. Reading this trilogy, I just can't stop to think about my life, human natures, and etc. Very interesting.

Not many actions on this series. You won't find those awesome battles like on Mistborn Trilogy, or gut wrenching actions on The Wheel of Time series, or even magical moments like on House of Night series. There are some heart-racing inducing moments, but nothing too spectacular. I think most of the actions and battle on this book are about battle with yourselves, fighting between your heart desire with your conciseness, etc. It's all about good and evil inside our heart, mind, and soul.

The magical system established by LeGuin is an interesting one. On Earthsea, wizardry is an art of men, while women art are usually about healing etc. Yes, the world of Earthsea is very chauvinistic. There is some kind of old language (or old tongue), which how magic is usually conducted (although not all magic use it). Also, those old-language are written as rune, which also has the power to do magic. This magical system reminds me strongly to those God-Word on Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. Or maybe it's more correct to say that Inheritance Trilogy magical system is similar to Earthsea Trilogy. Every magic on Earthsea is based on balance, or equilibrium: you do nothing to upset the world's balance or equilibrium. This aspect is just like those Discworld magic, its also work on equilibrium basis.

Reading Earthsea Trilogy will give you those lost-in-time feeling. The pace is moderate, not too slow, but not too fast either. The plot is simple and straight forward, easy to follow. And the finale of each book is simple, nothing to give clue that the story is nearing it finale, it just... finished. But the end capable of giving you the feeling of fulfillment. Maybe the finale is not very spectacular (compared to novels like Mistborn, Black Jewels, The Wheel of Time, etc), but it's has it's own charm: the bitter-sweet feeling you got after finished reading. Very recommended.

Update: last Sunday I went to our local bookstore and look what I found on the shelves:
The Tombs of Atuan and A Wizard of Earthsea
The Farthest Shore
All Three Book. Love the cover, very nice!
If I'm not mistaken, its priced about $5 or $6 (45-60 ribu rupiah). Very cheap, considering the quality of the story. I don't know the translation, because I haven't got them, yet. I planned to picked them next month, because this month book budget is already null lol.

However, I took home a copy of Indonesian version of The Eye of The World, the first book from The Wheel of Time, because I'm interested comparing the original (English version) with the translation version. I'm wondering how much the nuance and atmosphere of the book could be captured and translated into the Indonesian version. Just wait for it, I got to finish one or two more review and one and half books before that.