Title: A Wizard of Earthsea
Author: Ursula K. LeGuin
Series: Earthsea Cycle, #1
It's honestly hard to believe this was a book published in the 60s. I was afraid to re-read it because I didn't believe it could possibly live up to my recollections. But it did. This book is simply beautiful.
Ursula K. LeGuin's prose is really only the start of the beauty. It's melodic without coming across sing-song. But it's not just the prose that makes this book so gorgeous. It's the impact of its seemingly simple theme, which has so much more impact than the "grand" conflicts of fantasy epics.
The idea of a man fighting a shadow, a byproduct of his pride again and again, speaks to me far more than battling hoards of orcs. This is more a book about human nature than anything else, and the importance of internal conflict.
In the Afternote of my edition, Ursula K. LeGuin goes over some of this, like how she managed to not defy convention enough to get published, even though she wasn't writing a Tolkienesque novel and was writing a novel with a protagonist of color. And honestly, I think that's where some of the flaws show up. There wasn't a lot of room for her to have many female characters that weren't evil. Granted, with the way that the story follows the protagonist's flight, I feel like all characters are fleeting in some way. But the women... early on in the book there's a saying shared, something like, "Weak as a woman's magic, wicked as a woman's magic."
I'm not sure this could have been published in a way that would have made me entirely happy, considering the era, but it's certainly still one of my favorite books and deserving of five stars, even with its flaws.