Listen free for 30 days

A Wizard of Earthsea

The First Book of Earthsea
Narrated by: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Series: Earthsea, Book 1
Length: 7 hrs
4.5 out of 5 stars (471 ratings)

£7.99/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime

Summary

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.   

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death's threshold to restore the balance.  

Read by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

©2018 Ursula K. Le Guin (P)2018 Orion Publishing Group

What members say

Average customer ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    325
  • 4 Stars
    108
  • 3 Stars
    31
  • 2 Stars
    6
  • 1 Stars
    1

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    314
  • 4 Stars
    79
  • 3 Stars
    31
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    3

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    302
  • 4 Stars
    86
  • 3 Stars
    35
  • 2 Stars
    9
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A great classic, beautifully read.

I first read ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ as a teenager back in 1969, shortly after it was published, in its classic, slightly psychedelic Penguin cover. Le Guin was always a true influence on those who followed, like Hope Mirlees, Tad Williams, or of course Tolkien, Lewis etc a decade or so earlier. Every dragon rider, every haunted wizard, every brave venturer into Death’s land in later fantasy fiction owes something to Le Guin.
What was so amazing to me, hearing it again after all these years, is that it is still groundbreaking, beautifully and unpretentiously written, the story of a young man’s personal development into maturity and confidence, with no tricks or over-stretched metaphor. And it’s short! Not an extraneous word or a self indulgent moment.
And of course - this has the wonderful Kobna Holdbrook Smith reading it! Having been a huge fan since ‘Rivers’, I now stalk him on Audible- if he’s reading it, I’m listening to it! At first I wasn’t sure about the slightly Norf Landon voice he gave Ged, but actually I grew to like it. It differentiated him from other voices.
So this too joins my list of favourites.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

My first experience of Earthsea, truly excellent.

Amazing tale of being human, of facing our fears and of mastering them. A remarkable work and why I have only come to it aged 41 I do not know.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant

I hope they produce the others in the series and that they are read by the same narrator. His reading is excellent.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Reputation well deserved

Le Guin can take a relatively concise description and score it on your brain indelibly. This is fantasy of the highest calibre.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not for me

I adore other readings by KH-S and I know this is meant to be a classic, but I just can't get on with it. This doesn't mean others won't.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Bit Disappointed

I Have been hugely excited ever since this book showed up for preorder on Audible, as A Wizard of Earthsea is my go-to story for sick days, lazy Sundays, or when I'm just not feeling 100%. It has been for over 10 years!

LeGuinn is a fantastic storyteller and wordbuilder, with an accessible narrative that weaves deep questions and themes into a child friendly story that will also truly delight, thrill, and hold the imagination of adults in a chokehold and refuses to let go.

I was equally disappointed when I finally opened A Wizard of Earthsea this morning to find narration that sounds somewhat akin to Neil Gaiman with a chest infection, and about half the audio frequencies removed.

I found the narrator perfectly adequate, but also somewhat lackluster after cutting my teeth on the Harlan Ellison reading; but as the options are not there, and the BBC dramatisation (which are normally very good) was also a bit of a flop with this story, im just glad to be able to have this story accessible at all times again, though the Ellison reading is preferable every time if you can find it.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A Mesmerising Tale

A simple yet strong tale of reconciliation between light and dark. The main character says so much with so little. I will certainly be taking a look at the second book of Earthsea.
I was attracted to the Author for her work with Taoist literature. This work appears to be reflected and clarified in her fiction.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Narration a touch salty

I tend to hold that a noticeable narration is adding too much, and this is one such case, adding a little too much seasoning to Le Guin's beautiful but unassuming prose for my taste. But I enjoyed the performance and the book is a genre-transcending classic. Well worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Narrator was a good fit for the story

I have trouble fitting a narrator to my internal voice, but he fit the feeling of earthsea really well.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Spellbinding

I doubt I have much to add when reviewing a classic. Incredibly accessible prose but also strikingly poetic. One of the most beautifully written books I think I've ever read, at both line level and in the themes and throes of the narrative. There's a prized feminine quality to it, a gentleness, even in the posturing boys.

The plot is epic yet swiftly sails along and doesn't overstay its welcome. And epic fantasy battles are cleverly subverted in a lore where knowledge and wisdom trumps martial prowess. It also goes to dark, subdued places, and indeed its central antagonist is the hero's own inner shadow and shame. Its subtle and insidious and powerful. Even the dialogue has a terse, understated power; and this story itself seems to be a mere prelude to the world's recorded history of the hero, a tale thus far untold in the world.

The world of Earthsea feels fresh and unique, a beautiful archipelago of islands, merging plant and animal life with life on the high seas. I can perhaps see inspirations here for worlds like Sea of Thieves and Divinity Original Sin. Shadows entering the world through a kind of dimensional tear make me think of Dragon Age's Fade, but this was written decades before! It must have been incredibly fresh and imaginative to those early readers, and as I say it still feels new and unique.

I could feel the sun and taste the salt, and it felt like a wondrous place to be. The place names have a ring of Tolkien, but also a bold flavour all of their own. And many of the races central to the narrative are dark-skinned, which is surely incredible representation for the sixties.

The voice acting is richly textured, and with its realisation of various British accents, it brings the world vividly to life.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Helane
  • Helane
  • 05-05-20

Good but bad reader

I enjoyed it but it was hard to follow because of the bad reader the voice was husky and I didn’t like it at all

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Sam
  • Sam
  • 01-11-19

Quality voice acting.

He sounds like a little much at first it I was impressed by the subtle transformation of his character voice for Ged: from sullen and sulky teen to brooding young lad to stoic reserved man grown. This subtlety works with rather than against the dramatic storybook narration of the tale. Good good reading of good good book. I await the next in the series.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-05-19

Not for me

I love the book, but I can't just get past the narrator's silly whisper-growl voice. Listened to 1 minute and gave up.

1 person found this helpful