What a pleasure it is to read a well-crafted story told by a master! In the mountain regions of the land, the clans are insular, making war and an uneasy peace with each other, trusting that their reputations as witches will keep the Lowlanders away. But are they really witches? The reader must decide that for himself. If you were young and curious, and a bit of a troublemaker, you might run away to the mountains to find out. Emmon does just that. Fortunately, he meets two young Uplanders who are just as curious about his land as he is about theirs. They will even tell him a little about themselves, not much, but enough to keep him out of trouble. Because while they are not exactly witches, each family does have what they call Gifts. Gry can call animals, although she refuses to call for the hunters. Orrec must wear a blindfold, at least until his anger can be tamed. His family's Gift is called Unmaking, and he won't demonstrate it for Emmon. In fact he refuses to use it even when his father asks him to. Of course this has lead to a major rift between him and his father. Orrec's mother is, or was, a Lowlander, so she can't interfere in the fight. Orrec feels that everyone is against himand when his mother develops a "wasting" illness and dies, he doesn't know what to think. Could someone who resents their family's position have used his Gift to cause her illness? We find ourselves really caring about these two teens. A page-turner and highly recommended, especially for fans of LeGuin's earlier work. 2004, Harcourt Children's Books, Ages 12 up.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, September 2004: In the Uplands, feuding families fight each other using their strange "gifts"??the ability to strike someone blind or deaf, to set a fire just by pointing to a spot, or to take a man's will from him and make him do your bidding. Young Orrec's family has a gift known as "the undoing," a means of killing with just a look, a gesture, and a word. At first, Orrec is not even sure that he has inherited this gift, but a dramatic episode convinces him, though it seems that his ability is not fully under his control. He becomes so afraid of his gift that he voluntarily wears a blindfold at all times, so as not to injure anyone accidentally, and accepts the help of a guide dog. His good friend Gry has the gift of communicating with animals, but she refuses to use it to call them to the hunt to be killed. In refusing their gifts the teenagers find other strengths, and Orrec discovers that he has talent as a poet and storyteller, relating the tales his lovely mother told him before she wasted away, cursed by a crude, greedy neighbor who coveted her. After a terrible battle with this neighbor, in which Orrec's father loses his life, Orrec and Gry decide to move away from the Uplands and make a new life, using their positive gifts of storytelling and horse training. Le Guin is a wonderful writer, and this haunting, thought-provoking fantasy has the power of legend. Readers will ponder the nature of gifts and curses, and empathize with Orrec as he struggles to make his way in this strange, vaguely medieval world. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Harcourt, 286p.,Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 7 Up-In this well-realized fantasy, the people of the Uplands have unusual and potentially dangerous abilities that can involve the killing or maiming of others. Gry can communicate with animals, but she refuses to use her gift to call creatures to the hunt, a stance her mother doesn't understand. The males in Orrec's line have the power of unmaking-or destroying-other living things. However, because his mother is a Lowlander, there is concern that this ability will not run true to him. When his gift finally manifests itself, it seems to be uncontrollable. His father blindfolds him so that he will not mistakenly hurt someone, and everyone fears him. Meanwhile, Ogge Drum, a greedy and cruel landowner, causes heartache for Orrec and his family. There is a strong sense of foreboding throughout the novel. The characters, who are well rounded and believable, often fail to understand the extent of the responsibility that comes with great power. In the end, Gry and Orrec come to recognize the true nature of their gifts and how best to use them. Readers can enjoy this story as a suspenseful struggle between good and evil, or they can delve deeper and come away with a better understanding of the choices that all individuals must make if they are to realize their full potential. An excellent choice for discussion and contemplation.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The Uplands are bleak and poor, separated into domains of the great lineages, each one defined by its gift. Gry's family gift is the ability to call animals to the hunt, and Orrec's family gift is the undoing-the ability to dissolve stone, or bone. Orrec tells his story as well as his family's: how his father raided the lowlands for his beloved wife; how Orrec was born, and grew up with Gry, the daughter of his father's best friend; how Orrec's gift never developed normally, but came late, and wild, so his eyes had to be sealed lest he do great harm; how his mother failed, and died. Le Guin spins her tale in her customary way, slowly, and with an ear to the cadences of the sagas. Orrec's journey of self-discovery is, when reduced, the familiar tale of the adolescent seeking to define himself rather than taking the definitions offered by circumstance, but the telling is so compelling that the ending almost takes the reader by surprise. If the end is a little tidy, the getting-there is not-and it's the getting-there that provides this offering's greatest reward. (Fiction. 12+)
"Gifts, in the context of Le Guin's newest, inspire fear more often than gratitude. But this book is a gift in the purest sense, as the renowned fantasist's admirers have waited 14 years since the release of Tehanu for another full-length young adult novel. . . . While intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory, Orrec's story is also rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics." Booklist, 8/01/04 (starred review)
"A brilliant exploration of the power and responsibilty of gifts . . . Provocative."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory . . . rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics."--Booklist (starred review)
"Science-fiction icon Le Guin probes the natures of fear, power, and love in this darkly beautiful, quietly provocative novel."--Family Fun
"Fantasy, artfully spun by an American master." --Parade
"One can recommend this book without hesitation to teens looking for a great fantasy read that does not follow the standard quest format."--VOYA