Monday, June 4, 2012

Book Report Monday: Gifts by Ursula LeGuin

Title: Gifts, Annals of the Western Shore #1

Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

Genre: Young Adult Literary Fantasy

Synopsis: Scattered among poor, desolate farms, the clans of the Uplands possess gifts.

Wondrous gifts: the ability--with a glance, a gesture, a word--to summon animals, bring forth fire, move the land.

Fearsome gifts: They can twist a limb, chain a mind, inflict a wasting illness.

The Uplanders live in constant fear that one family might unleash its gift against another. Two young people, friends since childhood, decide not to use their gifts.

One, a girl, refuses to bring animals to their death in the hunt.

The other, a boy, wears a blindfold lest his eyes and his anger kill.

(from Goodreads)

Why did I pick it up?: Ursula Le Guin is amazing. Though I have to say I don't like that cover. It does not represent the style of writing or the quality of the story. Also, it's just plain silly. Sillier still is that it is the special Young Adult cover, so it's the one you'll see in stores but when I downloaded it on my magical Nook, I saw a much more appropriate and entirely unsilly version.

Does this not appeal to Young Adults? I don't understand marketing.

Favorite Line: "To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well.”

My Review: While technically Young Adult, Gifts doesn't follow the popular YA formula. Le Guin doesn't usually follow any formula so I wasn't surprised by this. It's found in the YA section and it is undeniably a coming of age story.

The Uplands is a poor region and most outsiders view the Uplanders as uneducated, savages, who are foolish enough to believe in magical powers. Narrating is Orrec, a boy whose clan has the gift of the unmaking. How cool does that sound? They can untie knots, wither trees and kill animals and people alike with glance, gesture and a word.

Okay, so it's cool sounding and terrifying. That's a lot of power and Orrec struggles with handling it while also trying to grow up in the shadow of his father and ancestors all who were leaders with the power to undo and unmake. No matter what you call it, it is a destructive gift and as you can imagine a challenge for a young kid to handle.

What always impresses me about Le Guin is that she can construct a perfectly developed world complete with real relationships between her characters in so few words and pages.

Recommendation: This will appeal to anyone who enjoys beautifully written stories about magic, fantasy, and overcoming familial expectations.

Next Week: The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie


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