Monday, February 09, 2009

Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin (The Annals of the Western Shore Trilogy, Book 1)

Books Completed: 32
Completion Date: February, 2009
Pages: 300
Publication Date: March 4, 2006
Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts. Wondrous gifts: the ability--with a glance, a gesture, a word--to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land. Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness. The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young people, friends since childhood, decide not to use their gifts. One, a girl, refuses to bring animals to their death in the hunt. The other, a boy, wears a blindfold lest his eyes and his anger kill. In this beautifully crafted story, Ursula K. Le Guin writes of the proud cruelty of power, of how hard it is to grow up, and of how much harder still it is to find, in the world's darkness, gifts of light. Includes a reader's guide and a sample chapter from the companion title Voices.
I started this book with some worries. I read a couple standalone books by Le Guin many years ago. I couldn't even begin to tell you when anymore! I loved them. One of them was Left Hand of Darkness. I do remember that. Anyway, a few years went by and I had to read Le Guin again in one of my university classes. The book was Tales from Earthsea. I was excited to read it because I had been meaning to get back to Le Guin and it just hadn't happened. I hated the book. I just could not get interested in anything that it said, and I remember leading some very entertaining discussions in university because of my extreme dislike of the novel. That being said, I still bought a copy of A Wizard of Earthsea. I don't like to be close-minded, so I figured I should give the series another chance. I read it last year and, well, I just don't think that Earthsea is for me. When I first joined the library I was going through my wish list and came across Gifts. I decided to give Le Guin one more chance.

That's a long backstory, but I finished Gifts the other day and I actually liked it! I went into it expecting that this was probably going to be my last try at liking Le Guin, so I didn't have super high expectations. Thankfully, this trilogy seems to work for me, so I have already requested the next book from the library. The novel is narrated by Orrec, a young boy living in the Uplands. The people are poor, but they have extraordinary Gifts. It is just accepted that you learn your gifts, and marriages are planned to have the best chance of success with them. As a result of the gifts, there is a lot of warfare amongst the scattered groups. If you don't have a power or don't use your power, you are often considered a waste. Orrec's power is too powerful, though, and he is worried that he will hurt the ones that he loves. In desperation he puts on a blindfold and lives in a dark world. His friend Gry helps him navigate for the next couple years of his life.

Orrec and Gry are not like the other people of the community, though. They are not accepting of all that their gift does for them, which will lead to some big decisions at the end of the book. Orrec may not be able to see, but he tells the story with a clarity that is captivating. Gry is a wonderful secondary character, as well. It is fun to watch these two grow up together. I look forward to seeing what Le Guin has planned for the next book in the trilogy.


  1. If you like fantasy I've got a different type of fantasy you might like. It's Modern Magic. Lucky for you the author is visiting today.

  2. Bluestocking: I will have to look into that!

  3. You know, I think it makes sense that you weren't interested in Tales from Earthsea if it was your first Earthsea book. It's actually supposed to be the 5th, and although the short stories are not quite related to what happens before in the series, I know that already being familiar with the world helped me appreciate them. But then again I also understand that Earthsea could just not be for you :P

    I'm glad you enjoyed Gifts, though! I hope you enjoy the other two in the trilogy just as much.

  4. Nymeth: Yeah. If I wasn't reading it for a university class, I would not have read it first! She said that she was not going to include it in future years because it just did not work! Who knows, maybe in the future I will try Earthsea again... Maybe...

  5. I am groaning because the cover is drawing me.. that's a bad sign lol.. I did read her earthsea trilogy long long long ago and saw the mini series they made for tv of it (it was ok but not great) . We'll see, I am trying NOT to add to my wish list for a bit..but as you know that ain't easy!

  6. Deslily: It is a good trilogy so far, though. If you decide to add it to your wish list, that is. :)

  7. I'm glad you like Gifts. It's always a pleasant surprise to enjoy a book more than you expected to. I don't think I've ever read anything by this author. I feel like Deslily - the TBR list is growing exponentially. At times it is down right scary.

  8. Anonymous1:43 PM

    glad you liked that one! its nice that the last one you were going to try turned out to be a goodie!

    i'm currently reading two le guin books at the same time and i'm finding them both rather tough going...

    i'm reading "left hand of darkness" and "wizard of earthsea". "left hand" is just so trying. i feel bad saying it but its just rather boring. theres a sense that what she's doing must be important but somehow i just can't swallow it. like a very dry pill.

    "wizard", while a bit easier to read, also hasn't quite grabbed me. although i'm still in the early stages of this one...

    by the way, i read that you referred to yourself as fantasy fangirl on stephanie's page - i love that! :D

  9. booklogged: While I am not Le Guin's biggest fan, I did like this book and can recommend it!

    JP: lol, yeah, fantasy is my main genre of choice! I have read both 'Left Hand' and 'Wizard'. I thought I liked 'Left Hand', but I can't even remember what it was about! It's been a while, I keep thinking I should reread it. As to 'Wizard', I tried it last year and just was not very interested in it at all!


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