Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Rating: 3 stars

I’m really not sure what to make of this book. Written many years after the original Earthsea trilogy, it continues the story of Tenar, the priestess that Sparrowhawk rescues from the Tombs of Atuan in the second book. Tenar has taken to a simple life as a farmer’s wife, and now widow, and spends time musing on what it means to be a woman. She takes in a young girl, Therru, who has been cruelly abused by her parents and then has to look after the spent Sparrowhawk, after he returns from the events at the end of The Farthest Shore.

This book feels like a book of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. There is none of the action or quests that characterises most fantasy, not to mention the original trilogy. This was written when Le Guin was discovering feminism, and it’s really a slow story of a woman and all that entails. It slightly frustrated me that there seemed to be a story in there, that of Therru, but it was never properly explored. Even by the end, Therru’s story remains mostly untold. Also, Tenar’s passivity was also frustrating, with things happening to her, rather than her actively doing anything.

Some reviews have decried the changes to Sparrowhawk’s character in this book, but given everything that he’s gone through, I can’t accept that as valid. I think that a man like Sparrowhawk would go through the emotional changes that Le Guin describes here and think that they work in the story.

I’d recommend this book, perhaps, as providing more background and detail on the world of Earthsea, but not for the story itself.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140348026
Publisher: Puffin
Year of publication: 1990

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