Title: The Other Wind
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Publication date: 2001
The sorcerer Alder has the power of mending, but it may have become the power of destruction: every night he dreams of the wall between the land of the living and the land of the dead, and the wall is being dismantled. If the wall is breached, the dead will invade Earthsea. Ged, once Archmage of Earthsea, sends Alder to King Lebannen. Now Alder and the king must join with a burned woman, a wizard of forbidden lore, and a being who is woman and dragon both, in an impossible quest to save Earthsea.
I don’t know why but all book or series endings leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe I hate endings, or maybe I don’t like how the author decided to end their story — either way, I am never happy to read the last page.
The Other Wind, the sixth book of the Earthsea cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin, and so far the last one confirmed, was not what I expected as a conclusion of the story. It started promising with a bit of mystery and new, diverse characters (something that has been missing for me in the previous books) and then when they all got together their personalities more or less disappeared and it was hard to tell them apart. I don’t say that juggling a big cast of characters is easy, oh no, but I’ve read many books where it is done marvelously. And here, well, it was OK.
The story goes like this. We start with a new character, Alder, who has powers but not distinctive enough to go to study on Roak. He has a very specific skill though — to mend broken things. After losing his wife and unborn child and grieving over them he begins having a weird dream where his wife is calling him from ‘the other side’ of life, begging for freedom. The dreams become more frequent and more scary and he seeks help until he ends up at Ged’s door (being send there by the mages of Roak). After we spent some time watching Ged and the young man tend to the house chores, eat and sleep (unnecessary long and quite boring) Ged then sends him to Havnor, where King Lebannen rules, and where Tenar and Tehanu have gone prior, to assist the king.
There are several plotlines happening here, which is surprising considering that in the previous books the plot was all straight-forward and linear. Here we have Alder’s problem on one hand, the dragons coming back East to reclaim what was owed on the other and then we have the king of the Kargs, a warlike people from the East who despise sorcery, who has sent his daughter to marry Lebannen as the price for peace between them. All in all, we have all the ingredients for an explosive adventure. Unfortunately, Le Guin stays true to her style and all we get is talking, talking, sailing, more talking and occasional dragon sighing (but the dragons mainly talk and look threatening).
I won’t go on much about the prose and writing style, I have already said how much I adore them, but they alone can’t carry the story. Tehanu, who was supposed to be ‘The woman from Gont’, a dragon and what not played such a tiny role that it was utterly disappointing. And there was absolutely no magic involved this time, not even to make the boats go faster, which was also disappointing. My biggest disappointment, however, was the ending. Or to be precise, the events that lead to the ending.
I won’t spoil it for you, of course, I will just say that the ending itself was good and logical. And it all built to it so it wasn’t at all surprising. But all the events that led to it, and they were many for sure, were either pointless or just delaying the action endlessly. For such a small book I feel like it was never going to end, and not in a good way. And I know this is common practice with writers but at the end I half-expected to know what happens with most main characters. Here we got hits and bits for half of them which just intensified the bitter taste as I closed the book.
Anyway, I am happy I read through the series – I found the writing engaging, the overall story was interesting and it got me to care for some of the characters so that’s great. I’ll give it 3/5 rating since it really should have been better for the conclusion of the whole cycle.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on The Other Wind?