LeGuin has established herself as one of the best writers of the twentieth century. She can do more with a single sentence than many authors can manage with hundreds of pages of text. The Farthest Shore is no exception to her excellence.
Ged is an old man now and the Headmaster of Roke when a young prince comes to him with news that magic all over the archipelago is failing. Ged sets sail with the young prince to find out what is wrong and finds that many people don’t even believe that magic is real any more. They have fallen into using hallucinogenic drugs to hide their fear of death.
They eventually sail to the ends of their known world and even beyond and into the land of death itself in order to bring magic back to the land.
As is typical with LeGuin the experience as a whole is really the source of joy that this book brings. The characters are fascinating and the story is reasonably interesting but LeGuin’s writing and the wisdom that she communicates with every line make this book feel like a near spiritual experience.
LeGuin has a lot to say about the world and life and making choices and she says them all with such grace and conciseness that it feels almost crass to review her work. The Farthest Shore is a continuation of the story she started with The Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan and spiritually it is a maturation of those two books.
Each of her books in this series imparts wisdom with every word. Ged learns to live with the consequences of his own foolish decisions and to confront them instead of run form them in the first book. In the second book Tenar learns to face her fears and push back against the oppression of history that forces her to live a life of restrictions and servitude. In this book Ged and Arren learn the uselessness of fearing death and how corrupting that fear can become.
I will repeat what I’ve said previously about the first two books in this series. Read these. Read them again if you have already. My one regret with these books is that I have not read them as many times as I have read Tolkien’s work and can not focus as deeply on their strengths. They deserve to be taught in schools and loved by people of every age. LeGuin is one of the finest writers ever and her Earthsea books are among the best of her work.