LeGuin's classic of fantasy literature is a great introduction for genre newcomers. Review by S.K. Slevinski

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If you've been tempted to jump in and ride the fantasy tidal wave summoned by recent blockbuster movies, or if you're looking for an imaginative story to read to your older child, The Wizard of Earthsea is a perfect choice.

This novel, which is the first in a cycle of Earthsea books, follows the story of a young boy who discovers his innate talents for magic under the tutelage of a sagely wizard, and hones his skill at a school for wizards. At this point, seasoned fantasy fans will realize why I'm recommending it as a good introduction for new or young fans. While LeGuin is one of the pioneers of alternative reality fiction, both science fiction and fantasy, subsequent authors in the fantasy genre have often fallen prey to formula. Unfortunately for LeGuin, many of her creations have been co-opted by later fantasists. The best known fictional reprisal of the school for wizards, I trust, is obvious to my fellow members of Western pop-culture, and her "true name" magic has been "reincarnated" as recently as Paolini's Eragon.

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On Audio
Experienced fantasy fans who have not read Wizard of Earthsea will likely find it charming, but formulaic and predictable by virtue of reverse generalization. New fans, however, will delight in following this story and its adventures for the first time. It's a great choice as a "starter" fantasy because of its length, as well. If you've been daunted by the epic length of choices like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, Wizard of Earthsea will give you the same fantasy "flavor" without the oppressive page count. LeGuin's writing style, unfortunately, did not catch on as well as her concepts. Hers is a traditionally literary style, elegant in its economy. Aspiring fantasy writers would benefit from reading this book as an example of how imaginative and evocative language can be, even in a fantasy, when it is uncluttered by much of the mess that plagues modern fantasists.

Wizard of Earthsea is an appealing story with a fairy tale spirit. While long-time fantasy readers may find it a collection of "old standards," new and especially young fans will enjoy being transported to LeGuin's magical world.

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S.K. Slevinski is senior editor for ARWZ Literary Magazine and a long time reader of alternative reality fiction. She is currently a graduate student, specializing in folklore.

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