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The Other Wind    by Ursula K. Le Guin order for
Other Wind
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt Brace, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Wesley Williamson

In this novel, Le Guin returns to her Earthsea universe, and fittingly ends the saga by turning it upside down. The story has received some criticism as being (unlike the other books in the series) not a fast paced adventure story, but more an examination of characters and their interactions as they face a totally new and frightening series of events. The characters are mostly familiar from the previous books, with one particularly notable newcomer.

Alder is a humble sorcerer with a knack for renewing things that are broken, but he cannot repair his broken heart when his beloved wife dies. He begins to have strange dreams about the land of the dead, seeing his wife and other shades reaching out to him from behind the low stone wall that separates the dead from the living. He goes to the Isle of the Wise, but the Mages can give him little help and send him to Ged, the former Archmage, now retired with all his powers lost. In turn, Ged sends him to the Woman of Gont, Tehanu, who is with Ged's wife Tenar at the king's court in Havnor.

Strange portents are disturbing the land. Others are having strange dreams. The dragons have broken their long standing truce, and are moving East in increasing numbers. A new ruler has seized power in the Kargad lands, and has sent his daughter Seserakh with an embassy to the king, it is believed with the intent to offer her as the king's bride. The story culminates in a confrontation with the dragons, at which the true history of the coming of magic and immortality is discovered, and Tehanu finds her true destiny.

To my mind, Le Guin has written a fitting conclusion to the series, which resolves disturbing aspects of the Earthsea world, and finds a truer philosophy. I was particularly impressed by her development of the character of Sesarakh. She comes to the court of the king from the seclusion of the seraglio, completely veiled from head to foot at all times in public, knowing nothing of the language or culture of the court. To make matters worse, the king resents her arrival, and ignores her. With the help of Tenar she struggles to learn the language and overcome the handicaps of her restricted upbringing.

Le Guin describes her struggles with understanding and deep sympathy. No more is needed than the Song of the Woman of Kemay:Further west than west,
ic]Beyond the land,
ic]My people are dancing
ic]On the other wind.
bi]The Other Wind is a must read for fans of Earthsea.

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