wilderthan: ((AxelRoxas) Together)
[personal profile] wilderthan
The Other Wind is a beautiful book. I don't think I liked it all that much the first time I read it, but now I see exactly how it fits. It's less incongruous than Tehanu, for me, but follows on neatly enough -- and it does use all the ideas and feelings that are brought up in Tehanu. Set a long time after it, it makes most sense if you've read Dragonfly, from Tales from Earthsea, before you read it. The first time I tried to read it, I don't think I had, and I had no idea who Orm Irian was or why she was significant.

One thing that I disliked in The Farthest Shore was the picture painted of death. It was difficult to think of it as such a crime to come back from there, when it was so miserable, where lovers could pass each other in the street and not care. The Other Wind sets this right. It's interesting to me that, at the end of The Farthest Shore she thought the series had ended, and presumably also at the end of Tehanu, but this book fits so cleanly, so clearly, as if it was intended all along.

The writing is once again beautiful, in places. I found it rather commonplace in Tehanu, matching the subject matter, but there are some really gorgeous quotes in this book. This one is perhaps my favourite:

"I think," Tehanu said in her soft, strange voice, "that when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn't do. All that I might have been and couldn't be. All the choices I didn't make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven't been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed."

Along with the recurring theme of life and death, and the one giving value to the other, we also have more criticism of the male-dominated system, and of the male way of thinking in Earthsea. How much of this is meant to be political commentary, and how much of this is Ursula Le Guin exploring her own world, I doubt we need to know. It's interesting that she introduced what is basically a burqa, without any particular comment on whether it is anti-feminist or not. Sesarakh comes out from behind her veil, of course, but I didn't feel like Le Guin was saying omg burqas r evol!

Character-wise, we have a lot of characters from other books, but there are some new ones as well. Chief among these is Alder, and Sesarakh. I don't think it's really explained quite thoroughly enough why Alder is the centre of all this -- it doesn't really make sense, when he's just a town sorcerer -- but it does break the pattern of Roke-wizards being all-important, as does the inclusion of Seppal, and it is something that would happen... an 'ordinary' person getting swept up in great events. Also, isn't Ged ordinary, at the beginning? So maybe it needs no better explanation. Anyway, I didn't get as attached to him as to Ged or Lebannen, but he did make me smile sometimes, reading about him. And I was sad, at the end.

Sesarakh is an interesting character, another vector for the discussion of the female in Earthsea. I didn't get to love her as a character, or really feel the romance between her and Lebannen, but that wasn't really the point. I did want to kick Lebannen rather, for the way he treats her and thinks about her. But Tenar had him well in hand, really.

I was going to say that The Other Wind isn't my favourite book of the series, but really I don't see why it shouldn't be. It has a complexity that A Wizard of Earthsea doesn't, it carries on the work that, in retrospect, all the other books began. It offers some bright, beautiful images and some hope for what happens after death, and I don't see why it can't be an education and a comfort to us, too. "Only in dying, life," is a truth for us, too.


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