Tehanu, by Ursula Le Guin

Thus ends the Earthsea Quartet, with a return to a familiar character written about twenty years after the first three books. I went back to the copyright page to check the dates when I noticed how different the tenor of "Tehanu" is from the other three. It's as though in the intervening years, le Guin found feminism. Her writing style is very similar, but when we meet Tenar of "The Tombs of Atuan" again in her middle age, she is no longer an overly proud girl who needs a man to set her free. Tenar, mother of two, homemaker and farmer, suffers no fools and argues freely that while a woman's power may be different from a man's, she is no less powerful and no less deserving of respect. I become more emotionally tethered to this story than the others; mistreatment of Tenar and the poor burned girl she had saved and was raising left my heart racing, and their ultimate triumph left me triumphant as well. While I think I'll stick to le Guin's science fiction from here on out, I'm very glad I finally read this fantasy classic. Now I just have to decide how I feel about people giving it to children to read...


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