Thursday, February 23, 2006

Gifts by Ursala K. Le Guin

It has been a long time since I read an Ursala K. Le Guin novel. I remember enjoying the first three Earthsea books (I have not read the others) and Left Hand of Darkness. In each of her books, Le Guin creates a world similar to ours in many ways but with some radically differences. Because of these twists, her books are labeled as fantasy. In Gifts, Orrec and Gry are teens maturing in a feudal society of uplanders and lowlanders that seems much like medieval Europe. Fighting between rural clans is at times fierce but is tempered by the distances between family domains. Without modern transportation and communication, encounters are few. Much effort has to be made to rob or attack the neighbors.

Orrec and Gry are expected to develop the powers of their parents. Gry is able to call animals to her, making her an able trainer of horses. She can also call game animals to hunters, but she feels this is a misuse of her gift, a betrayal of animal trust. Orrec is struggling with his feared gift of "unmaking." With a glance and the outstretching of his hand, he is supposed to be able to will the destruction of things, beasts, or people, but his control of the gift seems to have gone wild. Orrec voluntarily blindfolds himself to protect his loved ones from his anger.

What is interesting in Le Guin's works are the family relationships and the different ways that societies work. A main question is whether Orrec and Gry will do what their parents ask. The stories do not rely of the strangeness of situations to remain interesting. While aimed at teen reader, Gifts can be read and enjoyed by anyone.

Le Guin, Ursala. Gifts. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Inc., 2004 ISBN 0152051236

6 compact disc. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2004. ISBN 1419332023

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