Ursula K. Le Guin,
(Atheneum, 1990)

Ursula K. Le Guin is as prolific a writer as you will find, which is our good fortune. She creates a world where dragons and magicians are in touch with one another. Earthsea is a world of islands, mountains and deserts resembling our own. You will feel at home when you read Tehanu.

I read my first Earthsea books in September 2002. Since then, I have read one after the other in an orgy of high fantasy reading. I found a writer suitable for all ages. The first three books: The Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore were awarded the most prestigious awards for children's books, marking them as juvenile fiction. The truth is, the books in The Earthsea Trilogy are not age-specific. They transcend pigeonholing.

The proper thing to do, if a reader is seriously interested, as I was after the first book, is to go on at once to the next two. Then, it's time for Tehanu and the others. The books flow into one another with such ease that nothing is lost. Most sequels are not so dependable. In Earthsea sequels, new characters are added, a few villains are dispatched, island cultures wax and wane, characters mature and situations change.

In Tehanu, a small girl, burned and scarred, becomes a ward of Lady Tenar on her husband's farm on the island of Gont. Tenar, the former High Priestess of Atuan who was rescued by Sparrowhawk, is a widow now. Tenar's heart is touched by Tehanu's history, but why she adopts her, she does not know. It is something she feels she must do. One day the great flying dragon arrives bearing a man Tenar knows well: Ged, the grown-up Sparrowhawk, and he seems to be dying. If that matters to you, you are well and truly hooked.

What happens to Tehanu, Tenar, Ged and the others in an irresistible tale of loyalty, duty, responsibility and love. Maybe that is why these books resonate with certain readers. Who would imagine a reader could care so much -- indeed, enough for tears -- about the fate of Le Guin's characters? What magic is operating here that is in Harry Potter's world, in the stories of Rumer Godden, in Winnie the Pooh, in Anne Tyler's world of misfits and in Timothy Findlay's book about Mrs. Noah and the animals in the ark?

I cannot speak for Le Guin's science fiction. I walk very gently in that field but I notice how well-used the sci-fi books are in my public library. I hope it is the teen readers discovering exciting reads.

- Rambles
written by Jean Marchand
published 16 November 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.