(3 1/2 of 5 Elk [rating system])
The Farthest Shore is Le Guin's third in the Earthsea series, featuring the return
of our protagonist Ged, who along with his new sidekick Arren take us on a journey to save
Earthsea by traveling inside mankind's dark soul and challenging our most basic fears.
The story is framed by Ged's and Arren's somewhat aimless journey-for-a-journey to find
the cause of the loss of magic among wizards and general spirit for life amongst
Earthsea's populous. We learn that the antagonist has found a way to achieve immortality
by bridging the worlds of life and death, while failing to realize (or care) that this act
has opened a hole between the two worlds, leading the world of the living into a
zombie-like state of neglect and uncaring. As before, Le Guin excels at her vivid,
show-not-tell portrayal of every step of their journey.
But this is all backdrop, the real quest is about confronting man's fear of death and
overcoming it by coming to accept and appreciate the balances in nature: the need for both
ying and yang, light and dark, and most importantly, life and death. Through Ged, Le Guin
tells us that without dark there is no light, and without death there is no life. It is
this proper balance that Ged--now aged, wizened, and almost impossibly altruistic--is
determined to restore.
While I absolutely loved A Wizard of Earthsea's story of Ged's fall and redemption
(see my review), Farthest is not a story to evoke such love,
with much darker and more introspective subject matter. But overall it is another vivid,
powerful story, and a worthwhile read.