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le 1 juin 2001
LeGuin's third book in her Earthsea series is her most ambitious. Her thesis: you can only become whole by facing and accepting death, the darkest shadow. Lifted straight from Jungian psychology, this is the hardest and the important part of being whole. Sparrowhawk knows most of this truth already: remember the climax to Wizard of Earthsea. Arren, the young prince who accompanies Sparrowhawk on the epic voyages of this third book, has not yet learned this harsh lesson.
You don't need to know anything about Carl Jung to read and enjoy this book. At one level, this is a children's tale. But this book has many levels. Consider: the last king, Maharrion, had prophesied that there would be no king to succeed him until one appeared who had crossed the farthest shore. I'm not giving anything away by telling you that the farthest shore is physical - the western shore of the westernmost isle of Earthsea and metaphysical - death. And readers of earlier books know that for the wizards of Earthasea, there is a low stone fence that separates the living from the dead.
There is another wizard - humiliated by a younger Sparrowhawk - who has both great power and a terror of death. And he has worked a spell that will devastate the world, by denying and avoiding death. But by denying death, he has denied life, and magic, song, joy, reason and even life are draining out of the world. That spell must be undone before it is too late. And that task falls to Sparowhawk and Arren.
Arren must learn to understand and accept that death is necessary. Not just in the abstract but personally. He must cross that low stonewall with no hope of returning. He must cross the final shore.
This story has dragons, despair, joy, loss, discovery and marvelous surprises. Like all of the Earthsea books, it is sparely but beautifully told. The deepest of the first three books, it is an absolute joy. And for a thoughtful, reflecting reader, it might be even more. This is a book that can change a reader's life.