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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In 1990, Ursula K. Le Guin augmented her classic Earthsea Trilogy (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore) with the Nebula Award-winning Tehanu, which was pointedly subtitled "The Last Book of Earthsea." Fortunately for all of us, that description was inaccurate. With Tales from Earthsea, Le Guin returns to her enchanted archipelago -- a world populated by dragons, wizards, and witches, as well as ordinary folk -- and gives us a luminous, varied collection that spans several centuries of volatile Earthsea history.
Tales from Earthsea contains two novellas, three short stories, an elegant introduction, and an extensive afterword describing the "fictional facts" behind one of modern fantasy's most durable creations. The stories proceed chronologically, beginning with the longest tale, "The Finder," an illuminating account of the Dark Ages of Earthsea and of the founding of the school for wizards on Roke Island. It closes with another long story, "Dragonfly," in which the eponymous young heroine challenges the long-established "Rule of Roke," which forbids women from receiving formal training in the magical arts.
In between, Le Guin offers us a tale of wizardly redemption ("On the High Marsh"), a portrait of the final days of Ogion, wizard of Gont ("The Bones of the Earth"), and a moving love story ("Darkrose and Diamond") in which a gifted young adept chooses love and music over the rigorous demands of magic. Every story is told in the lucid, pristine prose that has distinguished this series from the beginning.
The volume ends with "A Description of Earthsea," a faux-scholarly treatise on the history, languages, culture, and customs of the mythical archipelago. This essay-length explication should prove both useful and irresistible to Earthsea aficionados, and it is worth the price of admission all by itself. Taken as a whole, this collection is a major publishing event that marks a welcome return to a scrupulously constructed, endlessly fascinating fictional world. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).