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Word Count: 1,486
A kind of magic The Other Windby Ursula Le Guin 246pp OrionYou cant get away from the Harry Potter comparisons A young orphaned boy is discovered to have magical powers He is sent to a school for wizards He struggles with the minor arts of illusion and other trivia He dabbles unwisely in necromancy And so on As I slogged my way through the first two Potter books wondering how much more of Rowlings mumsy artless prose I could stand I was nagged by a memory of a richer and more bewildering story It came to me fairly quickly Ursula Le Guins Earthsea trilogy which I read between the ages of 11 and 13 And turning back to it to cleanse the palate as it were I was somewhat staggered Rowling can type but Le Guin can write Earthsea is an imaginary archipelago the traditional pre-industrial world of childrens fantasy literature but governed by a supremely compelling and simple idea there is an ancient language of creation and anyone who has the gift of sorcery and who can speak that language in which things are given their true as opposed to arbitrarily phonemic names can master their physical presence To know someones true name is to have power over him or her it is vouchsafed only to those whom one trusts utterly There are dragons for whom the ancient tongue is native but they are not to be trusted while incapable of lying they have different conceptions of truth There are competing magical forces not so much between light and darkness as between the wise and sensible use of magic - and darkness The purpose of the wizards school in Earthsea is to teach one how to use magic without upsetting the balance of the world The hero of the series Sparrowhawk is a proud difficult boy from a mountainous island famous only for its pirates goat-herds and wizards in a clandestine contest at the
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