I have been reading Ursula K. Le Guin for the first time this past month. I first came across her as a 12 year old in the school library, but like all books back then I didn't want to read. It looked fantastical and yet I couldn't commit to something that meant the work of actually reading.
Sigh! If only I hadn't have been so short sighted I might not be in the pickle I found myself as I tried to learn to write proper.
Ursula did, back in the 60s, what many writers still strive to do: the creation of an amazing world with tightly bound characters, histories, mythologies and conflicts. Just like Terry Pratchett (some 15 years later) she charged her work with cunning and intrigue.
As Pfangirl states in her blog - Pfangirl Through the Looking Glass:
I finished the first story of Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet, A Wizard of Earthsea. People close to me will know that I’m generally very disdainful of traditional high fantasy as a literary genre – seeing as it tends to be dominated by bad, superficial writing and endless clichés as far as I can see it.What follows in the next few blog posts are my observations of some of her skills as she employs them in the first book - A Wizard of Earthsea.
However, I have been making the effort to read some of the acknowledged classics (many of them classified as Youth reads), like the Earthsea books. And I’m pleased to report that out of 20th Century fantasy pioneers I've read: Tolkien, Lewis and Le Guin, Le Guin is the most skilled of the writers – her stories are essentially powerful parables and she writes in a style that is appropriately simple, but strangely “otherworldly”, as if told by one of the Earthsea storytellers themselves.