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A Wizard of Earthsea

The First Book of Earthsea
Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Series: Earthsea, Book 1
Length: 7 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (140 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.   

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.  

Read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

©2018 Ursula K. Le Guin (P)2018 Orion Publishing Group

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Thought provoking story

A philosophical novel with a rich and interesting world. The reader sometimes lapsed when using a variety of accents, but overall it was a really stellar reading, and his voice compliments the story wonderfully. I was particularly impressed with the way the voice of the protagonist matched with the feeling of him developed in the language and description of the novel. I came to this book not fully expecting to enjoy it like I did, but I was pleasantly surprised. I'll be making my way through the rest of the Earthsea novels when time allows.

8 people found this helpful

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Fantastic tale and escape

Beautiful story, great escape for your boring daily commute. Wish it was a longer story. Definitely stood the test of time. If you liked Harry Potter.

3 people found this helpful

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Love Narrator

I love the Narrators voice so much I looked him up, hoping there are more books he's read that I would be interested in.

3 people found this helpful

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Fantastic classic fantasy

Loved this story! Le Guin's prose is elegant and her world building completely intriguing. The story is classic fantasy but still a fresh, surprising and compelling read even over 40 years since publication. Plus it's not that long and can be easily read/heard in a few hours! Can't wait to read the rest of the Earthsea books!

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Love it.

I listened to this straight through. I wish there was a second book in Audible.

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Great audio book

Really enjoyed the style of writing. Loved the narration. Appealed to both adults and kids

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The Best Audio Fiction I’ve Ever Heard

I first read Ursula Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea” some 30 years ago at the age of 10, and have since read it numerous times and completed the entire Earthsea series. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith’s narration made this the single best non fiction audio book I’ve ever heard. It was 100 out of 10. That good. I’d love to tell him in person how amazing he was.

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Nothing short of excellent

Captivating and compelling, precedent-setting and quintessential; easy to see why it is considered a classic.

Superb vocal performance.

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  • Helane
  • 05-05-2020

Good but bad reader

I enjoyed it but it was hard to follow because of the bad reader the voice was husky and I didn’t like it at all

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  • Sam
  • 01-11-2019

Quality voice acting.

He sounds like a little much at first it I was impressed by the subtle transformation of his character voice for Ged: from sullen and sulky teen to brooding young lad to stoic reserved man grown. This subtlety works with rather than against the dramatic storybook narration of the tale. Good good reading of good good book. I await the next in the series.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-05-2019

Not for me

I love the book, but I can't just get past the narrator's silly whisper-growl voice. Listened to 1 minute and gave up.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Rebecca
  • 20-03-2019

A great classic, beautifully read.

I first read ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ as a teenager back in 1969, shortly after it was published, in its classic, slightly psychedelic Penguin cover. Le Guin was always a true influence on those who followed, like Hope Mirlees, Tad Williams, or of course Tolkien, Lewis etc a decade or so earlier. Every dragon rider, every haunted wizard, every brave venturer into Death’s land in later fantasy fiction owes something to Le Guin.
What was so amazing to me, hearing it again after all these years, is that it is still groundbreaking, beautifully and unpretentiously written, the story of a young man’s personal development into maturity and confidence, with no tricks or over-stretched metaphor. And it’s short! Not an extraneous word or a self indulgent moment.
And of course - this has the wonderful Kobna Holdbrook Smith reading it! Having been a huge fan since ‘Rivers’, I now stalk him on Audible- if he’s reading it, I’m listening to it! At first I wasn’t sure about the slightly Norf Landon voice he gave Ged, but actually I grew to like it. It differentiated him from other voices.
So this too joins my list of favourites.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Dr Ward
  • 08-01-2019

My first experience of Earthsea, truly excellent.

Amazing tale of being human, of facing our fears and of mastering them. A remarkable work and why I have only come to it aged 41 I do not know.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Adnil
  • 31-12-2018

Brilliant

I hope they produce the others in the series and that they are read by the same narrator. His reading is excellent.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-12-2019

Reputation well deserved

Le Guin can take a relatively concise description and score it on your brain indelibly. This is fantasy of the highest calibre.

2 people found this helpful

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  • AReader
  • 02-07-2019

Not for me

I adore other readings by KH-S and I know this is meant to be a classic, but I just can't get on with it. This doesn't mean others won't.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Michael Richmond
  • 13-12-2018

A Bit Disappointed

I Have been hugely excited ever since this book showed up for preorder on Audible, as A Wizard of Earthsea is my go-to story for sick days, lazy Sundays, or when I'm just not feeling 100%. It has been for over 10 years!

LeGuinn is a fantastic storyteller and wordbuilder, with an accessible narrative that weaves deep questions and themes into a child friendly story that will also truly delight, thrill, and hold the imagination of adults in a chokehold and refuses to let go.

I was equally disappointed when I finally opened A Wizard of Earthsea this morning to find narration that sounds somewhat akin to Neil Gaiman with a chest infection, and about half the audio frequencies removed.

I found the narrator perfectly adequate, but also somewhat lackluster after cutting my teeth on the Harlan Ellison reading; but as the options are not there, and the BBC dramatisation (which are normally very good) was also a bit of a flop with this story, im just glad to be able to have this story accessible at all times again, though the Ellison reading is preferable every time if you can find it.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 22-05-2020

Narrator was a good fit for the story

I have trouble fitting a narrator to my internal voice, but he fit the feeling of earthsea really well.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dela Boy
  • 08-06-2019

A Mesmerising Tale

A simple yet strong tale of reconciliation between light and dark. The main character says so much with so little. I will certainly be taking a look at the second book of Earthsea.
I was attracted to the Author for her work with Taoist literature. This work appears to be reflected and clarified in her fiction.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Dave D
  • 10-04-2019

Narration a touch salty

I tend to hold that a noticeable narration is adding too much, and this is one such case, adding a little too much seasoning to Le Guin's beautiful but unassuming prose for my taste. But I enjoyed the performance and the book is a genre-transcending classic. Well worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Nephrite
  • 26-05-2020

A Story Of Balance and Wizardry

A Wizard Of Earthsea: The First Book Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

“You must not change one thing, one pepple, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on from that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard’s power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”

Hello again to you all. Forgive my extensive quotation. I thought it might be interesting to discuss another classic story. One with quite the reputation. Last time I did this I discussed the science fiction classic Foundation by Issac Asimov (depending on if you count Frozen Hell or not) but this time I think it is the turn of a classic fantasy story.

A Wizard Of Earthsea by Le Guin is quite an interesting read or listen. Despite being originally conceived of and written as a children’s (although I suppose it would be considered Young Adult or YA nowadays) novel and released in 1968 it has since developed quite the following among children and adults alike and in some cases is one of the classic stories that gets shared between generations much like Lord Of The Rings, the Discworld stories by Pratchett and the Narnia series. Personally I had heard of Earthsea or The Earthsea Cycle as the series is collectively called but I had never read it until recently and honestly didn’t think it originated in the 1960s. But perhaps I should get to the review already?

A Wizard Of Earthsea is the coming of age story for Sparrowhawk – for I cannot use his true name – as the young man from the town of Gont is taught to use his magical abilities. His great natural talent and power and how to control it. But he must also learn at the magic school on the island of Roke the limitations of his power. When it is safe to use it. How to use it safely…and the consequences of one’s hubris should one become too overconfident. We follow Sparrowhawk from his childhood as a ignorant child with no knowledge of any magic up to his true maturation as a wizard who has fought the living shadow.

The writing of Le Guin is wonderful. The story itself is told relatively simply but there is quite an extensive use of symbolism throughout – the use of balance in the above quotation only being one such example – while it seems that Le Guin has written the story in a style very similar to some of the great epics of the past. This means the story flows wonderfully and it feels like you go through the entire tale in no time at all! It certainly made very easy and enjoyable listening for myself.

To the point that – even though I haven’t yet listened to books two and three in the first Earthsea trilogy – simply on the strength of the first book alone, if you are trying to find a book to interest young people in fantasy or wizards and don’t want to use a certain scarred chosen one you could choose a lot worse than A Wizard Of Earthsea.

The narrator for A Wizard Of Earthsea is someone I am very familiar with and have praised extensively in the past: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith who acts as narrator for the Rivers Of London series I have discussed twice in the past regarding Lies Sleeping and False Value. As a matter of fact it was Kobna’s involvement in this release of Earthsea that got me to try it in the first place.

His narration for this particular audio is extremely enjoyable with all characters being given a suitably unique accent and voice. Some of my favourites include the voice used for Sparrowhawk himself which noticeably ages and matures with the character himself and the voice used for Sparrowhawk’s most respected teacher Ogion The Silent who comes across as a perfect ‘wise old man’ or wise mage figure. I’m very glad that my curiosity about Kobna’s other work allowed me to discover something else so enjoyable. I definitely plan to get the other books. Holdbrook-Smith also acts as the narrator of the third novel of the original trilogy The Farthest Shore although for in story reasons he is not the narrator of book two in the series The Tombs Of Atuan.

In conclusion I found this audio edition of A Wizard Of Earthsea to be an interesting and enticing story. It is well written with a great understanding of its own setting to the point that it is easily one you can get lost in and lose track of time entirely. Some day soon I shall have to investigate these tombs which call the Sparrowhawk. And while I do that? I hope I can persuade some of the curious to either explore the archipelago of Earthsea or to return to it and the many stories and adventures held therein.

“Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life: bright the hawk’s flight on the empty sky.”

Sayonara!

Nephrite