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Gifts
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*Starred Review* Gr. 6-10. Gifts, in the context of Le Guin's newest novel, inspire fear more often than gratitude. But this book is a gift in the purest sense, as the renowned fantasist's admirers have waited 14 years since the release of Tehanu (1990) for another full-length young adult novel. Providing an intriguing counterpoint to the epic third-person voice of Le Guin's Earthsea novels, this quieter, more intimate tale is narrated by its central character, Orrec. Born into a feud-riven community where the balance of power depends on inherited, extrasensory "gifts," Orrec's gift of Unmaking (which is wielded at a glance and is as fearsome as it sounds) manifests late and strangely, forcing him to don a blindfold to protect those he loves from his dire abilities. The blindfold becomes a source of escalating tension between Orrec and his stern father, and its eventual removal serves as a powerful metaphor for the transition from dependent youngster to self-possessed, questioning young adult. Although intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory, Orrec's story is also rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics. One would expect nothing less from the author whose contributions to literature have earned her a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula Award, and, most recently, a Margaret Edwards Award for lifetime achievement. Jennifer Mattson
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Le Guin's (the Earthsea Cycle) fantasy, a brilliant exploration of the power and responsibility of gifts, begins as 16-year-old narrator Orrec reflects upon recent events. Emmon, a runaway Lowlander, comes to Caspromant, where Orrec's father is Brantor, or "master." Orrec and his childhood friend, Gry, from neighboring Roddmant, explain to Emmon the history of the Uplands, where various family lines live side by side, each of them with a hereditary "gift." Gry and her mother have the gift of calling animals to the hunt; for Orrec's family, the gift is "undoing" (which can cause instant death with just a glance). Orrec explains to Emmon that these act as defenses, "That's what the gifts are for, the powers-so you can protect your domain and keep your lineage pure." The teen wears a blindfold because he believes his gift is "wild," that he could cause destruction unwittingly. Le Guin insightfully chronicles the hero's gradual awakening to the other consequences of gifts and the pressure on each generation to manifest them. "By not using my gift, by refusing it, not trusting it-was I betraying it?" Orrec asks himself. Gry discovers she has the ability to train animals and refuses to use her "gift" to call them to the hunt; she wonders aloud to Orrec, "I wonder if all the gifts are backward.... They could have been healing, to begin with." And what of Orrec's mother's skill for storytelling, which she cultivated in her son? Should that be discounted because she is a Lowlander? As Le Guin poses these questions, she also explores universal coming-of-age themes, examining one's identity and falling in love. Emmon, as outsider, offers the protagonists another perspective-and an alternative. This provocative novel may well prompt teens to examine their own talents, and to ask whether they simply accept those "gifts" assigned to them by others or whether the "gifts" are their true passions. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Gr 7 Up-In this well-realized fantasy, the people of the Uplands have unusual and potentially dangerous abilities that can involve the killing or maiming of others. Gry can communicate with animals, but she refuses to use her gift to call creatures to the hunt, a stance her mother doesn't understand. The males in Orrec's line have the power of unmaking-or destroying-other living things. However, because his mother is a Lowlander, there is concern that this ability will not run true to him. When his gift finally manifests itself, it seems to be uncontrollable. His father blindfolds him so that he will not mistakenly hurt someone, and everyone fears him. Meanwhile, Ogge Drum, a greedy and cruel landowner, causes heartache for Orrec and his family. There is a strong sense of foreboding throughout the novel. The characters, who are well rounded and believable, often fail to understand the extent of the responsibility that comes with great power. In the end, Gry and Orrec come to recognize the true nature of their gifts and how best to use them. Readers can enjoy this story as a suspenseful struggle between good and evil, or they can delve deeper and come away with a better understanding of the choices that all individuals must make if they are to realize their full potential. An excellent choice for discussion and contemplation.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"A brilliant exploration of the power and responsibilty of gifts . . . Provocative."--Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory . . . rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics."--Booklist (starred review) "Science-fiction icon Le Guin probes the natures of fear, power, and love in this darkly beautiful, quietly provocative novel."--Family Fun "Fantasy, artfully spun by an American master." --Parade "One can recommend this book without hesitation to teens looking for a great fantasy read that does not follow the standard quest format."--VOYA "Gifts, in the context of Le Guin's newest, inspire fear more often than gratitude. But this book is a gift in the purest sense, as the renowned fantasist's admirers have waited 14 years since the release of Tehanu for another full-length young adult novel. . . . While intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory, Orrec's story is also rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics." "Booklist", 8/01/04 (starred review) "Le Guin's fantasy, a brilliant exploration of the power and responsibility of gifts, begins as 16-year-old narrator Orrec reflects upon recent events. . . . This provocative novel may well prompt teens to examine their own talents, and to ask whether they simply accept those 'gifts' assigned to them by others or whether the 'gifts' are their true passions." -Publishers Weekly 7/19/04 (starred review) "Gifts, in the context of Le Guin's newest, inspire fear more often than gratitude. But this book is a gift in the purest sense, as the renowned fantasist's admirers have waited 14 years since the release of Tehanu for another full-length young adult novel. . . . While intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory, Orrec's story is also rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics." "Booklist," 8/01/04 (starred review)

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