The Farthest Shore
February 5, 2021 7:20 AM - by Le Guin, Ursula K. - Subscribe

Darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea. As the world and its wizards are losing their magic, Ged—powerful Archmage, wizard, and dragonlord—embarks on a sailing journey with the highborn young prince, Arren. They travel far beyond the realm of death to discover the cause of these evil disturbances and to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it. (Book 3 of the Earthsea cycle)

Welcome back to the Earthsea club! We’ve reached the end of the original trilogy, with three more books to go.

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Additional Reading
posted by Cash4Lead (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I remember comparing this a lot with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader while I was reading it (maybe my favorite Narnia book). These both must be tapping in to traditional myth themes of travel and spiritual awakening that I'm not super well versed in.
posted by latkes at 8:39 AM on February 5, 2021

It's such a love story. The flush of love when Arren meets Ged, but then the reckoning with the beloved as a real person, who can disappoint, whose motives can be obscure, who may not requite you. And Ged who loves impersonally, intimately and with concern but at arms' length. Who stands back to let Arren to come into his own.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:55 AM on February 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oh I am so far behind, and need to re-read on paper, but from my audiobook listen last year: oof, I still really don't like this one.

Arren's annoyingly cardboardy as a character; and it's a return to the travelogue/quest form (we go here! then we go here! then here!) of Wizard after the single setting of Tombs. But fundamentally though I've always found it a bit of a grim and dreary slog: so much dread, so much speechifying about death. Maybe in another 20 years I'll be ready for this one.

The dragons though; oh my god her dragons are amazing.

The Farthest Shore: The Return of the King

Ha yes, that was my thought too: the end of this is straight-up the end of LoTR, right? The hero falls and is carried by his loyal friend; their quest succeeds at great personal cost; they collapse exhausted and are rescued by air; the world is saved but our hero is marked by the experience and retreats into exile.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:07 PM on February 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

This was so weird and wonderful, I loved it. I liked the whole story well enough, although it felt...slightly predictable, I guess? (Also, I was really confused about Cob for some reason, and actually looked him up to see if we'd met him before and I just forgot, but nope.) I quite liked Arren, and didn't mind the eternal questing. (Aw, echoes of King Pellinore and the Questin' Beast!)
But the raft people! I loved the raft people so, so much! What a world, what a calendar, what lives they led. I adored the raft people, and they made the story sparkle for me, and were by far the most interesting part of the book. The Kroeber really came through, and I sometimes forget how much I adore LeGuin's worldbuilding, but the raft people reminded me.
(I also like Ged a lot more when he's not a teenager, it turns out. I am very curious to see what, if anything, happens to him next.)
posted by kalimac at 10:16 AM on February 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

The dragons though; oh my god her dragons are amazing.

Yes, there's an awe in Le Guin's descriptions and characterizations of Orm Embar and Kalessin: their beauty and wildness, how beyond human conventions they are. I feel like her growing interest in dragons is an interesting counterpoint to her complicating the use of magic and true names by humans, as we see in this book. As Ged says, the dragons speak the Old Speech natively, whereas humans have to learn it; and even then their use of the Old Speech can be hugely destructive, as demonstrated by Ged himself in the first book and Cob in this one. If we're going with LOTR comparisons, the dragons are kind of like the elves in terms of their access to the spiritual heart of the world (for lack of a better phrase), but at an even further remove from human concerns.
posted by Cash4Lead at 3:30 PM on February 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

What a strange story! It's a hero's journey classic tale; the traveling into peril, the adventure along the way, the growth of the hero into his One True Destiny. Only the hero, Arren, is this totally wooden and boring passive character. He has no idea that he even has a destiny, he's just an errand boy, and he doesn't really ever have the heroic awakening you expect. Most of the heavy lifting is done by ged

And then the enemy, the subject of the journey. The enemy is despair. And lethargy. And hopelessness. I guess it's all a thinly veiled depression metaphor, except as if the whole world were suffering from depression. There's no particular heroic victory here, not even much in the way of joy at the end. Such a bleak story! And yet beautiful and poignant for it.
posted by Nelson at 5:44 PM on March 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

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