Second Bookses

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Tales from Earthsea (Earthsea Series)

Tales from Earthsea - Ursula K. Le Guin Technically, Tales from Earthsea was the fifth book written as part of Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Cycle, but it doesn't follow the story that began with A Wizard of Earthsea chronologically. It does, however, provide some fascinating background information and "history" for the world of Earthsea.::: Tales? :::Tales from Earthsea contains several different tales: a novella, four short stories, and a "history" of the world of Earthsea. The novella is called The Finder, and tells the story of Otter/Tern/Medra during what LeGuin calls "The Dark Time" when magic was viewed as evil and suspect. Otter works for his father as a shipbuilder, but finds it difficult to hide his magic talents. When a king discovers that he possesses magic, he kidnaps Otter and puts him to work at his mines as a finder; a sorcerer who finds things, in this case, lodes of ore.At the mines, Otter meets a slave who is dying and the two escape together, although his companion dies soon after their escape. Otter learns of an underground society of sorcerers and witches known as The Hand, and he sets off using a new use-name (for if others knew his True Name, Medra, they could use it against him) to find these people, and hopefully learn from them.Soon known as Tern, he finds his way to the Isle of Roke, where The Hand is concentrated. With the others there, they found what eventually becomes the School on Roke for wizards, which plays such a huge role in the Earthsea Cycle.The next story in Tales from Earthsea is Darkrose and Diamond, a story of a boy named Diamond who was the son of a rich man. When the boy shows magical talent that may be of wizard level, the father manages to get Diamond prenticed to a sorcerer, who eventually arranges for Diamond to study at Roke.The problem, however, is that Diamond doesn't want to be a sorcerer. Back at home, he had fallen in love with a local witch, and part of the Rule of Roke is that wizards and mages must be celibate. In addition, Diamond's true passion lies in making music, and he can't find a way to reconcile the two talents.The third story is called The Bones of the Earth, a short short story which tells the story of the mages who lived in the house at Re Albi before Ogion, who taught Ged, the central figure in the beginning of the Earthsea Cycle.The fourth story is called On the High Marsh, and gives the reader a small taste of something that LeGuin left glaringly absent from the Cycle: events that transpired during Ged's years on Roke as Archmage (head of the school). In this tale, a mad wizard whose True Name is Irioth comes upon a village where all the cows are dying. He is a healer, and says that he came because the cows needed him, and finds shelter with a woman called Gift and her brother Berry. The rest of the town is suspicious of him, but Gift trusts him, and he does manage to heal the cows.Everything is fine until another sorcerer shows up who had previously been a healer, and Irioth uses his magic to attack the sorcerer. When Ged arrives in the town, he is sent to Gift's house since the townsfolk are now suspicious of all "foreigners" and Ged tells Gift Irioth's story; how as a boy he was left untrained too long, and had a tough time on Roke because of it. When he finally learned to control his powers, he was TOO powerful, and there wasn't a place among the Nine, the mages who are the heads of the disciplines at the school. He attacked the Master Summoner, whose talent was like his own, and it took more than one of the mages, including Ged, to fight him off. At that point, Irioth went mad, and set off on his own. Ged, after recovering, realized it might not be a good idea for a power like Irioth's to be roaming around free, and set off in search of him.The last actual story in Tales from Earthsea, Dragonfly gives the background of Orm Irian, the woman/dragon who appears in The Other Wind. It describes how she met up with the sorcerer Ivory, who was actually sent away from Roke. Ivory convinces her to disguise herself as a man and try to sneak into the school, and she follows along. When the Master Doorkeeper sees her, he knows she isn't a man, but lets her in anyway, causing strife amount the Nine, who disagree. She takes refuge in the Immanent Grove with the Master Patterner, and he eventually helps her find her true form.The last section of the book is almost like an encyclopedic entry, describing the people, languages, and religions of Earthsea. Most of this information was probably gleaned from the books already read, but here it is centralized.::: Do I NEED to Read It? :::Most fans of the Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle would read a cereal box if it had even a chapter of an Earthsea-themed book on the back. That said, as an Earthsea fan, I found Tales from Earthsea to be a very uneven read. The Finder was interesting, since it provided an explanation for how the School came to be founded, but it had much more telling than doing, and I found it hard to stay engaged.Darkrose and Diamond had nothing to do with any of the plots or characters already familiar to readers, and was too short to provide enough character development for me to even care whether or not Diamond decided to become a wizard or play music or just become a bum. Reading this story, I got the feeling that the editor didn't feel that this would be a long enough book and some sort of filler needed to be added.The Bones of the Earth seemed like it had a lot of promise, but the length was too short, and with a too-large cast of characters for the story, combined with switching back and forth between characters' "use names" and "True Names" it was so confusing I'm still not sure who was who and who did what in the story. I would have liked more background on Ogion, since he played such an important part in the lives of both Ged and Tenar. Why not include more about his training? Or a story about the time that Tenar spent with him after she and Ged returned with the Rune of Peace?On the High Marsh was definitely one of the highlights of the book. Even though Ged played only a small role at the end of the story, it provided a view of how magic actually operates in the lands of Earthsea outside the mages and School. Not much was written about regular villages and how sorcerers found work, and giving an example of a mage gone mad but still in possession of his powers was fascinating, and I found myself wanting to read more stories of this type, either with or without Ged. I was also hoping to read more about Ged's years as Archmage, and On the High Marsh was a tease in this respect.Dragonfly is probably the best piece in the book. Serving as a sort of bridge between Tehanu and The Other Wind. I read The Other Wind before Tales from Earthsea and didn't have any trouble following along, but it was helpful to go back afterward and learn of Orm Irian's history with the mages at Roke, getting a sense of why her return was so tense later on.The encyclopedia section was dry, and honestly, rather boring. I would have found it much more helpful to have this information provided in the back of one of the first two books, when the numerous peoples and religions and places they lived was confusing. By the point at which Tales from Earthsea was released (and when Le Guin herself recommends it should be read), most of this information is already familiar to the reader, and just seems redundant (and more filler) included here.Overall, there are a few gems in Tales from Earthsea, but it seems more a disappointment than a must-read. Most readers will be able to skip right over this book and never suffer in their reading of the Cycle, so I'd recommend this only for true fans.This review previously published on Epinions:

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