Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Furthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle): Closing thoughts.

Warning: I am writing this on the assumption that the reader has read and completed the first three Earthsea novels. If you have not and do not wish to have the story spoiled for you CLICK AWAY NOW! You have been warned.

Cob as he appears in the animated film
Tales from Earthsea (2004).
Well, I finally finished the Furthest Shore. Now as promised I'll talk about it a bit more. And honestly, I don't know where to start. I will say that the book didn't hold my interests as well as it probably could have, but that could just as easily be chucked up to my not reading a lot of Young Adult Fantasy. But anyway, where the book started to lose me was toward the end. Up to that point, Ged and Arren had been on several seemingly unrelated adventures, most of which involved gathering clues as to why Magic is disappearing from the world, but the other half, a large chunk of it anyway, involved Arren experiencing the world, i.e.: almost getting sold into slavery, experiencing other cultures than his own in the form of the Raft People ect, before finally introducing the villain when there is maybe four or five chapters left in the book. Oh, Ged did mention the villain (a Wizard named Cob) before then. But it wasn't until the end of the book that we got to actually see him and then his motivation is explained all in a rush. Essentially, Cob was looking for a way to escape death and become immortal, but in doing so he left the door between the realms of the living and dead open and this upset the natural order of the world. To me, that doesn't make a very compelling villain, And I understand that he can be seen as a counter- point to Ged and Arren, I.E.: Cob was so afraid of death that he missed out on life, unlike Ged and Arren who lived their life to the fullest. But when you distill him down to his core, is just a sad vain man who wants power. And although his character does help illustrate the themes of the book. I just found him kind of boring.
Ged and Arren
from the animated film
Tales from Earthsea.

As for Ged and Arren....honestly, Ged just started to get on my nerves after a while. Why? Well because he's way to damn cryptic half the time and he kinda turns into a half of a Mary Sue after a while, ya know the kind of character who nothing can happen too and is never wrong? Now, I understand that the context of the story that Ged is searching for the reason why Magic has disappeared from the world and therefore doesn't  have all the answers yet. But I swear to god there are times when you can just tell he knows more than he's letting on and he isn't telling the rest of us for some reason. It's infuriating. And I say that he only turns into half of a Mary Sue because bad stuff actually does happen to him. He gets hurt, he gets sick, and by the end of the book....he loses all of his powers. Yeah, reversing what Cob did literally sucks the magic right out of him. I gotta admit, I didn't see this coming. But it does solve one major problem from of the book. Ged's character arch was complete after The Tomb of Atuan,  he's full developed. But now that he's lost his powers, a new story can begin, and his character can develop in ways that he hasn't so far.

Now as for Arren. I just found him annoying. Maybe its Le Guin's writing style for these books not
put the thing away before
you hurt someone.
doing much for me. But I was not convinced that Arren grew up at all by the books end. This a character in where the symbol of his adulthood is that he now has the courage to wield a sword that he's kept stored away till now. Like I said, I understand that this is supposed to be symbolic of him passing from boyhood to adulthood. But dude, didn't you say at the start of the book that you don't actually know how to use a sword? did I dream that? So why by Godzilla's radioactive green testicles are you putting it on now? You're no swordsmen, what are you going to do with it? Cut your foot off? Oh, and did I mention that the sword is the same sword that his legendary hero-king ancestor used.  

Now I suppose that that last part isn't that big a deal. Legendary magic swords are all over fantasy literature after all. But Arren's lineage is actually one of the few things that stand him out from the other characters. And it's brought up through out the entire book. Hell, Ged even makes a big deal out of it when he's negotiating with one of the other characters, one of the Dragon's I think. Ged tells this character that Arren IS said legendary hero. When Arren rightly calls him out on this later, Ged says that Arren has the spirit of this hero inside him or something to that effect.    

I guess you could make the argument that Ged was trying to inspire Arren to be like his legendary ancestor, but it still leads to some very uncomfortable questions and implications (given the target audience for these books). Ok, so what bearing does Arren's lineage have on him as a person now? Does it automatically mean that he's going to be a great hero AND a great King? Ged, don't you think that's an unrealistic expectation? That's like assuming that Michel Jordan's cousin thrice removed is automatically going to be legendary at basketball. Actually, come to think of it, doesn't that kind of contradict one of the major themes of  The Tomb of Atuan?  That who you are, and who you want to be isn't dictated by anyone or anything? That it doesn't matter what religious tradition you belong to or who your 15 times great grandpa was, You can choose who you are and who you want to be, not them? Soooo, why is Ged telling the exact opposite thing to Arren? Now granted that Ged could be trying to inspire Arren when it comes to the kind of ruler he'll be someday (he is a prince after all), but regardless these mixed messages are there, and they are worth thinking about.

But now let's wrap this up. I don't hate this book, but it's certainly not my favorite either, and it's probably not one of Le Guin's best in my opinion. But with that said, I am glad that I read it. And I still do want to find out what's going to happen to Ged, and I am kind of enjoying exploring this universe.

So yeah, if you haven't already, check it out.

And I'm out.
Later guys.             


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