Ursula K. Le Guin,
The Other Wind
(Harcourt, 2001)

Ursula K. Le Guin, an enchanted world designer of some note, returns us to the world of Earthsea, a place inhabited by humans and the flying dragons, in The Other Wind. She creates the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and proceeds to fit them together in one mosaic.

As the curtain opens, so to speak, we meet Alder the Sorcerer. He is a man in the depths of despair, unable to rest and unable to sleep because his dreams are so frightening. Things get so serious that Alder sets out to find the once-powerful Archmage of Earthsea, Ged, once known as Sparrowhawk. Ged is sympathetic, but curing insomnia is not one of his talents. He offers Alder a quiet room, food and, surprisingly, a small kitten to sleep on Alder's pillow. Alder sleeps.

The Lady Tenar, Ged's wife, is away visiting the young king of Havnor in her capacity as adviser. The king needs Tenar at his side to deflect the attentions of a king's daughter. She comes with her entourage, veiled and richly dressed, to the island and is offered a small palace as far away from the king as possible. Tenar can see that she must take the role of matchmaker, but there are moments of frustration for her. This is not in her job description.

Meanwhile, the dragons are coming. The time has come for rapprochement and peace, they say. To that end, they send the Lady Irian as First Envoy. Irian is a delightful dragon lady, with impeccable credentials. She assumes a human form and charms the birds from the trees. Step Two will involve the diplomatic negotiations that are long overdue. More envoys are coming.

So, there is Alder, on Havnor with the kitten in his baggage; there is the young king reluctant to choose a bride; there is Tenar matchmaking; there is Lady Irian being First Envoy while the flying dragons are ready to descend soon to begin the peace process. What happens next to these characters is the story of The Other Wind, a whimsical tale with some truth in it about the foibles of human beings. I have to say this book tickled my fancy. Maybe it was the kitten. Or the shy prince and the bashful princess.

- Rambles
written by Jean Marchand
published 1 February 2003

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