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Grade 7 Up–In this well-realized fantasy, the people of the Uplands have unusual and potentially dangerous abilities that can involve the killing or maiming of others. Gry can communicate with animals, but she refuses to use her gift to call creatures to the hunt, a stance her mother doesn't understand. The males in Orrec's line have the power of unmaking–or destroying–other living things. However, because his mother is a Lowlander, there is concern that this ability will not run true to him. When his gift finally manifests itself, it seems to be uncontrollable. His father blindfolds him so that he will not mistakenly hurt someone, and everyone fears him. Meanwhile, Ogge Drum, a greedy and cruel landowner, causes heartache for Orrec and his family. There is a strong sense of foreboding throughout the novel. The characters, who are well rounded and believable, often fail to understand the extent of the responsibility that comes with great power. In the end, Gry and Orrec come to recognize the true nature of their gifts and how best to use them. Readers can enjoy this story as a suspenseful struggle between good and evil, or they can delve deeper and come away with a better understanding of the choices that all individuals must make if they are to realize their full potential. An excellent choice for discussion and contemplation.–Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC
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*Starred Review* Gr. 6-10. Gifts, in the context of Le Guin's newest novel, inspire fear more often than gratitude. But this book is a gift in the purest sense, as the renowned fantasist's admirers have waited 14 years since the release of Tehanu (1990) for another full-length young adult novel. Providing an intriguing counterpoint to the epic third-person voice of Le Guin's Earthsea novels, this quieter, more intimate tale is narrated by its central character, Orrec. Born into a feud-riven community where the balance of power depends on inherited, extrasensory "gifts," Orrec's gift of Unmaking (which is wielded at a glance and is as fearsome as it sounds) manifests late and strangely, forcing him to don a blindfold to protect those he loves from his dire abilities. The blindfold becomes a source of escalating tension between Orrec and his stern father, and its eventual removal serves as a powerful metaphor for the transition from dependent youngster to self-possessed, questioning young adult. Although intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory, Orrec's story is also rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics. One would expect nothing less from the author whose contributions to literature have earned her a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula Award, and, most recently, a Margaret Edwards Award for lifetime achievement. Jennifer Mattson
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