The final instalment of the original Earthsea trilogy, ‘The Farthest Shore’ follows Archmage Sparrowhawk in the final leg of his journey. It continues on from the previous book that returned the King’s Rune to Havnor by have part of the plot being centred on finding a king to rule Earthsea with the Rune.
There was a lot more adventure and travelling in this book than ‘The Tombs of Atuan’, reflecting the title in that regard. But it is similar in that there are two lead characters – Sparrowhawk and Arren, a young boy that accompanies Sparrowhawk on his quest. The main conflict of the plot, and the heart of the quest, is that magic is draining out of the world – wizards are losing their power, people are becoming obsessed with immortality, and everything has just turned upside down. Reading it, I felt that the conflict was near impossible to resolve and the resolution had a suitable, and heart-breaking, consequence attached to it. This gave the book an added sense of gravity and realism, even if there were dragons.
What I particularly loved was how the trilogy rounded itself off – Sparrowhawk’s journey comes full circle and Arren’s begins in a similar way. You could see the character’s growth but also catch glimpses of who they were at the beginning of the series. They had their strengths and their flaws. This was particularly noticeable in Sparrowhawk – the older, wiser wizard, a character type that often ends up being too ‘perfect’. Sparrowhawk makes mistakes and has doubts and weaknesses in a way that makes him a bit more human.
I think, if you haven’t read the Earthsea books before, you should definitely read them, but start with ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’, then you can get the full experience. There is still one book left I need to read – ‘Tehanu’ which was written much later than the original trilogy and acts as a final final chapter to Sparrowhawk’s tail. That will be reviewed next week.