The Other Wind


Ursula LeGuin


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

December 14, 2022

o call The Other Wind a character driven novel would be an understatement. There is almost no plot here, no conflict, little drama; just LeGuin bringing back her favorite characters for one more spin. However, because the characters are well portrayed, and because the reader remembers them from earlier adventures (especially Ged!), the pages keep turning. It helps that the hard-back edition is just 262 pages, so it doesn't take too long to read (why are so many fantasy novels now 500+ pages long? And each volume is merely the first book in a trilogy - it takes 1500+ pages for authors to tell a story!)

The novel begins with a minor mage named Alder arriving at the island of Gont. Alder is there to visit Ged, who once was the Archmage of Earthsea, but no longer has any wizardy powers left. Alder is a mending wizard, his magic allows him to fix broken things. He had a wife Lily, who worked with him as a teammate, but Lily died. Lately, Alder has been troubled by dreams in which Lily calls to him from the grey land of death. Alder fears that the wall between life and death is breaking down, and that in his dreams he will cause irreparable damage to the barrier, allowing the dead to escape. So Alder has come to see Ged, even though Ged has lost all his magical powers, because Ged once ventured into the land of death and returned alive. Ged presumably knows more about the grey lands of death than anyone else in Earthsea.

Ged is unable to help Alder. He tells Alder to travel to Havnor, and meet with the king, Lebannen. Ged's wife, Tenar, and his adopted daughter, Tehanu, are both already at the king's palace. Alder travels to Havnor and tells King Lebannen of his dreams.

At the king's court, a Kargish delegation has met with King Lebannen. They have given him their veiled princess to marry. Marry her, and the two lands can be united in peace. But Lebannen wants nothing to do with the unseen woman behind the veil who doesn't even speak his language. So he ignores the princess, Seserakh.

Word comes that dragons are flying over the western islands, burning farms and killing livestock. King Lebannen and a delegation go to talk to the dragons. They meet with Irian, a dragon who can change shape to look like a woman. Lebannen asks Irian about dragons, and also about the origin of humans and dragons - it seems that once they were the same species, but humans opted for power while the dragons chose immortality. And thus dragons and mankind were split, though rarely, someone like Irian is born - who can appear to be both dragon or human. Everyone decides that they should journey to Roke, to meet with the master mages and discuss what these dreams about life and death mean. More characters join the party. Lots of talking back and forth. Eventually they decide what they should do about the wall in the grey lands.

The Other Wind should be read to complete the Earthsea Cycle, but a reader won't be missing much if he/she opts to skip this book. LeGuin's writing is interesting if even if this story doesn't compare to A Wizard of Earthsea or The Tombs of Atuan, which I think are best books that she wrote.