Book review: The Other Wind

Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

Publisher: Ace Books, 2003

Every Earthsea novel has its principal protagonist (not necessarily the s/hero); the one through whose eyes we see into the world of the isles (Earthsea is made up of hundreds of islands and isles with various regions, cultures, languages, beliefs, folklore).

The Other Wind spreads itself out over several characters. I think this weakened the strength of the story a little, there not being enough development of the newly introduced characters to get us to care particularly for what they experience. This story follows Alder, Tenar, and Lebannen at a point of great change in Earthsea.

Alder is the reluctant herald of this change. A village sorcerror with a talent for mending objects, he has no great powers of wizardry. But he regularly has frightening dreams about the souls of the dead who call out to him from across the wall that he sees in his dreams; a wall that divides the land of the dead from the land of the living.

Tenar doesn’t change much in this story and nothing in particular is revealed of her past, but she is significant because through her eyes we see the growth of her adopted abuse-survivor daughter Tehanu. She also has the role of intermediary between a princess of the Kargad Lands and the King of the Archipelago, Lebannen.

If you read the Farthest Shore, you witnessed Lebannen as a youth shouldered with great responsibility, following along in the footsteps of the Archmage. While aged, Lebannen has changed little aside from the respect that he now garners as appropriate to a wise and responsible king. One sign of his wisdom is that he knows when to follow and when to lead.

This book, first published in hardcover in 2001, seems to be, unfortunately, the REAL last book in the Earthsea cycle that she’s writing. It’s not as impressive as her previous books, lacking the poetry of some of her previous works. It does round out the world of Earthsea somewhat, answering a lot of questions she raised in Tehanu when she decided to revise her series from a more feminist standpoint. In my opinion, the greatest reward for readers of the Earthsea cycle is watching in your mind’s eye Tehanu’s ending and new beginning.

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