rolling the dice


I’m a latecomer to the works of Ursula K Le Guin, finally getting around to the Earthsea books.

It’s been interesting to read “classic high fantasy,” written before the Dungeons & Dragons tipping point into genre: where the antecedents are folk tales not Tolkien; where the magic is ambiguous not formularised and disposable; and most of all where the prose is formal, poetic and epic.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Tolkien, and realistically it is the benchmark, but it cast a long elf/dwarf/dragon shadow over fantasy writing. Some of those cliches are easing off, but the return-of-the-ancient-bad-guy-in-the-east remains!

Funny how at a time when reading and publishing are meant to be waning, that there seem to be more books and authors. I have no theory for why franchise style series have taken off, whether the change is driven by risk averse publishing or readers seeking familiarity. It has certainly been entertaining to see the proliferation of vampire romance novels in the wake of the Twilight series, and now the sub-genre of bondage books inspired by the Fifty Shades series! Black covers and shiny details replacing the bodice ripping hunks of last century…

Even stranger how is how much “Robert Ludlum” titled work is being published despite him being dead. Surely you read a work because you like the author’s style, not because it’s a brand on the cover, but that probably seems a little quaint as a concept!

(One for the subscribers!)


  • How far into the series are you? I read Wizard of Earthsea the same year I read Lord of the Rings, Grade 6. Probably the first fantasy books I consciously read. I remember finding the second book pretty scary, and the third book pretty bleak and kind of depressing, in that I’m just gonna sit here and ruminate about this book I just read kind of fashion.

    • Control Fink says:

      I’ve read the first two, and avoided binging to save the last. Writing your main character back in halfway through, awesome.

      (I always avoided it because the cover art made me think it was a children’s novel! “The Left Hand of Darkness” is one of the best scifi novels I’ve read…)

  • Couple of days after you replied, I was moving some bookcases around downstairs and actually came across the Earthsea Quartet, an omnibus I bought Kylie a few years ago. I’ll have to finally read the last one. I actually don’t think I’ve read any Ursula science fiction beyond a short story that was more anthropology then science fiction, but I’ll have to give “Left Hand of Darkness” a try on your recommendation.

  • Control Fink says:

    I never knew there was a fourth!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *