The Farthest Shore (The Earthsea Cycle, Book #3)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Hardcover, 1972



Local notes

Fic LeG




Atheneum Books for Young Readers (1972), 223 pages. $15.95.


A young prince joins forces with a master wizard on a journey to discover a cause and remedy for the loss of magic in Earthsea.


National Book Award (Finalist — Children's Books — 1973)
Mythopoeic Awards (Finalist — 1973)

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

223 p.; 9.5 inches

Media reviews

As adventure narrative this lacks the concrete tensions of its predecessors, but once more the themes -- centering here on the "unmeasured desire for life" and its misapplications -- are deeply embedded in the action (though far from peculiar to the imagined kingdom of Earthsea)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Mild fail. Like the previous two books, this is a Bildungsroman, but where they make a neat pair--boy and girl, myth and psychological thriller, golden boy wizard and hurt, magicless child--this one brings in a prince called Arren about whom we get little background and into whom little insight,
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except that he is strong and brave and worships Sparrowhawk and is destined to be the returned King. And okay, if you wanted a king you'd choose a guy like that, but this book covers entirely too much of the same ground already looked at by A Wizard of Earthsea--except at least in that Ged wrestles with some real internal evils. Arren just helps out, gets pissy, inherits the throne.

It's also the book where Le Guin gets around to trying standard fantasy forms, but she gets them rather muddled. This is the world outof joint book, but there's no rhyme or reason: magic disappearing; archvillain messing with the world of the dead; dragons perishing and afraid--there's nothing to tie these catastrophes together. Why are they together? Just to show how bad it all is?

This is also the "world tour" book, but we still have not seen most of the centre of Earthsea--Le Guin seems to think mentioning places is enough--and we just putz around the edges. the place for this was in one of the first two books. I could imagine a quite satisfactory combo of The Farthest Shore and Tombs of Atuan, but that wasn't the way Le Guin chose to go. The tour, and the final sail to the ends of the earth, does give us the opportunity to meet the raft people--amazing--and get some Moebiusy 2d black mountains and such in the land of the dead.

And there are other things with pacing, suspense, secrets and revelations, that Le Guin seems to completely not get or ignore because she's so preoccupied with her parable (which, again, is less interesting than in either of the first two books, the ultimate message here seemingly that we should not fear death but should treat it with respect and live, but also that we need our social betters, in this case mages and kings, to take care of us). There is a complete failure to do the most basic of awesome genre conventions, when instead of bringing back any of the undeveloped characters from the original--Jasper, Vetch--or giving us a cameo by Tenar or Ogion, Le Guin makes the villain this laughable head case called--of all things--Cob, who is scared of death and gets into things he can't master and lets loose mere anarchy until he is taken care of--not by our heroes, who stand by while the dragon Orm Embar shows up to do the hard work, then pursue Cob into the land of the dead where sparrowhawk finishes the job with some ill-defined plot MacGuffin which results in him losing his powers (third-rate Chris Claremont, this). Le Guin doesn't pursue the most obvious, cheap--nay, free--way of giving him piquancy as a villain, which is to make him Jasper, Ged's arrogant bete noire from the first book. Vetch does not show up, do something heartbreakingly loyal, and sacrifice his life for the cause. again, the feeling is, we are not meant to care about the characters; they are only a didactic vehicle for the message. And in this case the message--see above--is one about which I both have mixed feelings and find fairly uninteresting.
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LibraryThing member Kplatypus
The third novel of the Earth-Sea cycle, [The Farthest Shore] is again different in style from the previous books. If [A Wizard of Earthsea] is a traditional coming-of-age/magical training book, and [The Tombs of Atuan] is a coming-to-terms with one's beliefs book, [The Farthest Shore] is a sea
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journey with a grand quest in the epic tradition. The characters (the familiar Ged and the new Arren) are as complex and flawed, yet likable, as ever. I didn't find this as interesting as the previous two novels, since it lacked the philosophical depths of those books, and sometimes seemed to jump around a bit. Nonetheless, it was a solid contribution to the genre.
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LibraryThing member selfnoise
Le Guin explores the fear of death and change in this elegant novel. It's the last in the unofficial "original" trilogy... the books written later, while good, diverge from these first three in some important respects.
LibraryThing member paradoxosalpha
This third Earthsea book exhausts my reread of that series from my childhood, so that I can now continue to the later volumes. Each of these books has been more surprising (i.e. poorly remembered) than the last.

Ged is now the aged Archmage of Roke, and a new character Arren takes on the burden of
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the young adult viewpoint. Although he becomes Ged's companion, he is not an apprentice wizard. He is instead a princeling who could fulfill the promise of a renewed kingship offered by Ged and Tenar's restoration of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. (Tenar, "the White Lady of Gont," is mentioned only briefly: 10, 200.)

For all that The Tombs of Atuan was dark and often oppressive, The Farthest Shore is gritty and nasty in ways unprecedented for this series, quickly bringing in slavery, drug abuse, and criminal violence. Magic is perishing, and magicians are being maddened and persecuted.

The full ordeal offered to Arren resembles in several ways that of Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea, but it is more extraverted. He is devoted to the Archmage, and struggles with the sense of duty kindled in him by their relationship. The foe that they ultimately confront is not of Arren's making, but indirectly (and once more) of Ged's.

Le Guin's 2012 afterword in this edition treats her exploratory approach to authoring fiction and how she learned about dragons in the writing of this book. It also discusses her unbelief in pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die and laments the social and spiritual deficits of capitalism. I was a little surprised to find her reflections here setting The Farthest Shore into a shared cultural space with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
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LibraryThing member gbill
I love how the narrative of these Earthsea books isn’t strictly episodic, picking up where the last one left off and giving us simply what “happens next.” Le Guin was far too creative for that, and the premise she came up with here of an evil present in the world, one threatening to sap away
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joy and the ability to do magic, is fantastic. There is something apocalyptic about this concept, and it echoes the real-world evil (both 1972 and 2022) which undermines the things we take for granted as basic “goodness” about life. The journey Ged goes on with a young prince to the far ends of Earthsea becomes a spiritual odyssey, and it’s a reminder that it takes real courage and effort to fight in a world leaning towards darkness and nihilism.

It's a Young Adult book but there is always a sophistication to Le Guin’s writing, and it’s more intelligent than what you would find in books like the Harry Potter series (and I say that even though I enjoyed the latter). Along those lines, though, it would be nice if J.K. Rowling acknowledged her debt to Le Guin (and other authors), and that the less mainstream works of Le Guin were more widely lauded. This one isn’t perfect – it drags a bit in getting to the finale – but it’s a joy to read, even as an adult.

“So when one stands in a cherished place for the last time before a voyage without return, he sees it all whole, and real, and dear, as he has never seen it before and never will see it again.”
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LibraryThing member nesum
The first is still my favorite of the three, but this one comes close. Le Guin's writing flows through this story very beautifully, though probably at a different pace than the modern reader is used to. Still, I do not regret a moment, in any book, that I spent upon the open sea with Ged, and it is
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time I cherish.

I am anxious to start this series again, but I rather like to let these stories wash over me a while before heading to another.
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LibraryThing member horomnizon
So far, I liked this book the best out of the original trilogy. It goes back to the adventure that existed in the first book, but was seriously lacking in the second. Plus, a bit of mystery was added and I enjoyed the addition of the prince as Ged's traveling companion. I enjoyed the addition of
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new islands and tribes like the raft people, too.

Definitely delving into some serious topics with death and afterlife, but LeGuin doesn't force her own opinion on the reader. The book can be looked at as philosophy or fantasy, depending on your personal beliefs. But it certainly will make you think! I found it quite enjoyable.
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LibraryThing member EmScape
The Farthest Shore tells the story of how Sparrowhawk, now Archmage, travels with Arran to the absolute end of the world and beyond to defeat a wizard who thinks he has conquered death and in so doing has opened the door to death so that all life and magic are draining out of the world. People have
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forgotten wizardry and are obsessed with immortality. Woven into the tale of their quest is the idea that the Balance must be preserved and that life and death are just two sides of the same coin. A very fitting and enjoyable end to the Earthsea trilogy, and the tale of the life of Sparrowhawk.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
In this last book of the trilogy the now Archmage Ged journeys to that farthest shore--the ends of the earth--to defeat a wizard claiming to have conquered death--and draining out of the world music and magic as a result. Ged believes that the wish for immortality is the root of evil. A theme I
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could see in C.S. Lewis and is also at the heart of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. More overtly philosophical than the first two Earthsea books, like them its allegorical quality is obvious, but this one is still brim full of adventure and invention--and of course like all LeGuin's works beautifully written. I could wish that rather than the (to me) rather uninteresting Prince Arren that Ged had a companion we knew from the earlier books, such as Tenar. But then Prince Arren does make this book, like the others, a coming of age tale about a young person coming to grips with themselves and their world. And hey, LeGuin does make up for that a great deal with the awesomeness of her dragons.
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LibraryThing member MomsterBookworm
Of all the books in the Earthsea Cycle thus far, this one, of the battle between light and darkness, is the most enigmatically and allegorically written. A line from the book, "There lay at the very heart of wizardry: to hint at mighty meanings while saying nothing at all, and to make doing nothing
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at all seem the very crown of wisdom." Indeed, the wisdom of the world is often written in parables and riddles, but left in plain sight. May those who have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to understand claim the treasures that lie within.
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LibraryThing member NineLarks
Magic seems to be disappearing from the world. When no one else knows what to do, Ged takes a young prince to seek the heart of the problem. But everywhere they go, there is darkness.

This was actually a really good book. As we mostly follow the perspective of Arren, we get to see Ged through
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different eyes.

The conceptual part of the plot was beautifully done. I loved the description of the towns that had forgotten how to be alive, showing us robbers who robbed because that is all they know. How dragons forgot their speech, and how even Arren could fall into the deception of life eternal.

One quibble is the introduction of the villain. I really think he didn't get enough book time. But Le Guin seems to always write shorter, concise stories, so I guess it makes sense.

The ending was pretty close to perfect. I just wish there were more of an epilogue (but I guess that's in the next few books).

The book was a conversation about life, it was dark musings before you sink into dreams, it was more than just a simple rising plot, climax, and falling action. There was thought behind it. And I am glad I read this book.

3.5 rounded up because it was a really great ending to a series.
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LibraryThing member stacey2112
Maybe more a 3.5? Not quite up to par w/the other 2, still good, but bogged down in the middle with some non-action at sea, then again near the end on the weird island-y place.
LibraryThing member msjoanna
A satisfying conclusion to the original Earthsea trilogy. The book is darker and more brooding than the first two books, but also more introspective and for that reason, quite interesting. The world of Earthsea continues to be developed in this book and new information about dragons, magic, and
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lore are introduced. Overall, I think the second book is my favorite of the three, but I enjoyed this one. I'll have to watch for the newer Earthsea books.
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LibraryThing member maggie1944
book 3 of earthsea series. I found this book to be much better than book 2. The story of a wizard and a young apprentice travelling to the ends of the known world in order to save everything is a bit over used by fantasy and sci fi w riters but in this case she pulls it off. I actually cared that
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they find the bad guys and kill them. I was a bit disappointed by the climactic scenes and the rold of the dragons but I generally enjoyed the book.
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LibraryThing member willowcove
A classic and a great series. While all three are good, I personally enjoyed the first two the most.
LibraryThing member jasmyn9
The third book in the Earthsea Cycle follows the wizard Ged and young Prince Arren as they search for the reason behind the forgetting of magic. Magic users across the many islands of Earthsea are forgetting the words of magic and going mad, and it seems to be spreading.

This is a great story of
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conquering your fears and overcoming what appears to be more than you can handle. It show the value of friendship and commitment. This was a wonderful follow up to the first two books. I have the fourth on my soon to be bought list.

My only complaint is again of the large gap with little to no information of what happens between the stories. I'm the type of reader that enjoys knowing even the more boring parts of the characters lives.

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LibraryThing member Diwanna
Book 3 in the Earthsea Cycle. Can Ged stop the death of magic? This book has a real melancholy feeling, a sense of helplessness and desperation. Even in the conclusion there is no feeling of happiness. Another good book, but not a feelgood book.
LibraryThing member RBeffa
The Farthest Shore was a great third book in the original Earthsea Trilogy. I'd have to say it was my favorite. Dark, sad, comtemplative. A lot of philosophy and thoughts on life and death and the balance. A rather hard kick at those who would seek eternal life. Ursula Le Guin can write. I don't
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think I would appreciate this novel as a teen or a young man as much as I do in middle age. It leaves me quite sad. I've grown quite fond of Ged and his journey.

I'll be reading more Le Guin this year, that is for certain.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
Lovely prose in this allegorical adventure but not enough plot to stay consistently compelling.
LibraryThing member HairyGromwell
I read this out of order, but it was still easy to enter the world LeGuin created. The story flew by, and I was halfway through the book before the morning was over. Enjoyable. Occassionally the language failed to flow - I think it had to do more with the rhythm, as she did a good job of creating a
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very visually intense scene. It felt a bit closer to a screenplay than the kind of fantasy novel that I used to sink into as a kid. Still, I'm very glad I read it, and there were a few passages I copied down for inspiration.
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LibraryThing member schteve
The third Earthsea book returns the focus back to Sparrowhawk/Ged years after the events of 'The Tombs Of Atuan' and provides him with a young companion, Prince Arren/Lebannen. The dark themes of the second book continue here with the highlight being a grim description of the Afterlife in Chapter
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12 The Dry Land.
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LibraryThing member Stevil2001
I liked Arren, the young protagonist of this Earthsea book, a lot, as he learns to mature, and the Raft People are completely awesome. Still, this seems the weakest of the first three Earthsea books, a pale retread of A Wizard of Earthsea in some ways. In fact, one wonders why this book's
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antagonist  isn't a callback to the first one, given the echoes. As with the first book, the dark climax is the best part.
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LibraryThing member drardavis
04/07/14 Earthsea: The Farthest Shore, Ursula K. LeGuin, 1972. Another perfectly beautiful fantasy tale. It looks so simple when you examine the style, but every word is poetically chosen to evoke the intended emotions of the reader. Some of the images will stay with me for a long time.
I was
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struck by the total opposition of the philosophy of this book to another I read recently, The Transhumanist Wager, by Zoltan Istvan. Istvan is seeking immortality through recent scientific breakthroughts. LeGuin puts it plainly in her afterword, “The idea of individual immortality, an endless ego-existence, is more dreadful to me than the idea of letting go the self in death to rejoin shared, eternal being.” Her fantasy writing puts that point of view even more clearly in the reader’s mind.
I read The Farthest Shore as a break from Philip K. Dick’s 900 page Exegesis, but when I returned to that I immediately found this comment by Dick, “... the two modes of interpretation (of his strange experience) which I hover between are S-F and theology, which surely tells us something about S-F we otherwise might not know. The two must be related in some important way.”
Of course, you can’t think of LeGuin without dragons, so here is one of my favorite parts. “It did not move. It might have been crouching there for hours, or for years, or for centuries. It was carven of iron, shaped from rock – but the eyes, the eyes he dared no look into, the eyes like oil coiling on water, like yellow smoke behind glass, the opaque, profound, yellow eyes watched Arren.”
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LibraryThing member AuntieClio
Thar be dragons in this book. There's also diminishing magic as a great shadow falls over the archipelago of Earthsea. And a king's coronation which brings to fruition a prophecy.

Of the Earthsea trilogy, The Farthest Shore is the strongest. Yet, there is little mention of what went before. Gont is
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mentioned with a brief allusion to Ged's early goatherd days (A Wizard of Earthsea) and Tenar/Arha is only mentioned once and her part in the reunification of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, which was the point of The Tombs of Atuan is not mentioned at all. The dragons reappear to guide Ged on the last part of his quest. Yet, it's as if the events in the first two books never happened. It makes me wonder what the point of A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan was. A reader could easily read only The Farthest Shore and come away not feeling as though she had missed much information, if any.

Ged is now Archmage and lives on Roke with the other Masters and mages in training. One day, young Prince Arren arrives and tells of great disturbances across his father's land. Wizards are forgetting their spells and can no longer do magic, villages are falling into disrepair as apathy covers the citizenry like a dark grey blanket.

After much debate with the Council of the Wise, Ged and Arren go on a quest to find the cause of this malaise and restore magic to the archipelago, if it can be. There are many adventures to be had along the way including meeting the Raft People who have no knowledge of living on the Land because they spend their lives on the sea, staring down the dead (more than once), and conversations with dragons, who have also begun to lose their power.

In the end, of course, Ged and Arren discover what must be done and overcome high odds to set right what had been done wrong. After, Ged and Arren are rescued and flown back to Roke by a dragon, much to the astonishment of everyone involved.

The last few paragraphs of the book are an epilogue of sorts, "Oh yeah and then the prince was crowned King of all lands and rumors of Ged's whereabouts were spread."

The Farthest Shore is a fun, short (
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LibraryThing member raschneid
Liked it, but honestly the plot didn't do much for me. I liked the philosophical aspects, but I'm not sure they led to any really compelling conclusion. Nevertheless an enjoyable read.




(1993 ratings; 4)
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