What a year it's been for Le Guin. First, there was The Telling, the widely praised new novel in her Hainish sequence, followed by Tales from Earthsea, a collection of recent short fiction in her other major series. Now she returns with a superb novel-length addition to the Earthsea universe, one that, once again, turns that entire series on its head. Alder, the man who unwittingly initiates the transformation of Earthsea, is a humble sorcerer who specializes in fixing broken pots and repairing fence lines, but when his beloved wife, Lily, dies, he is inconsolable. He begins to dream of the land of the dead and sees both Lily and other shades reaching out to him across the low stone wall that separates them from the land of the living. Soon, more general signs and portents begin to disturb Earthsea. The dragons break their long-standing truce and begin to move east. The new ruler of the Kargad Lands sends his daughter west in an attempt to wed her to King Lebannen. Even Ged, the former archmage, now living in peaceful, self-imposed exile on Gont, starts to have disturbing dreams. In Tehanu
(1990), the fourth book in the series,
Le Guin rethought the traditional connection between gender and magic that she had assumed in the original Earthsea trilogy. In her new novel, however, she reconsiders the relationship between magic and something even more basic: life and death itself. This is not what 70-year-old writers of genre fantasy are supposed to do, but then, there aren't many writers around like Le Guin. (Oct. 1)
FYI:In addition to five Hugo and five Nebula awards, Le Guin has won a National Book Award, the Kafka Award and a Pushcart Prize.