Please note that this review contains spoilers.
I was really looking forward to reading this: it’s written by Ursula Le Guin, and it’s become a classic of YA fantasy, if not children’s literature in general. Unfortunately, I was disappointed, finding it mostly dreary and uninspiring.
At the start, the novel seemed very promising. Ged’s raw talent made for a tense and exciting battle between his village and the invaders, but this turned out to be this high point of the story for me. It slowed down and even Ged’s later battle with the dragons did not carry the same sense of adventure.
The main problem was Ged’s accident with the Shadow, and the effect it has on his life. It’s the key event of the novel, but it weighs the story down rather than giving it the drive that could have made it more interesting. Because Ged is essentially cursed and tormented, he becomes a lonely, depressed character and the reader has to follow him around for the rest of the book. Long descriptions of scenery and travel slow the narrative down even more, and I was bored a lot of the time. I was really interested in some of the other characters like Jasper and Serret, but their roles are frustratingly small.
Also, since I came to know Le Guin primarily as a feminist writer, I was terribly disappointed to find that there were so few female characters. Serret is the most intriguing of these, but she turns out to be a typical temptress who comes to a bad end.
Only at the end did I find some hope for Le Guin’s series. After defeating the Shadow, Ged is able to discard the miserable being who made the story trudge along as drearily as he did. The bold, promising character from the first few chapters returns instantly, suggesting that the really great adventures all lie in the sequels.