A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

“It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 240 pages.
Read from November 26, 2018 to November 27, 2018.

Published in 1968, this novel is one of Ursula K. Le Guin first ventures into children’s literature. She never intended to write children’s literature but thanks to her persuasive publisher this classic fantasy piece exists. Ursula was not only a pioneer in fantasy and science fiction but she also managed to create accessible and YA novels that were also pieces of literature.  I’m not sure how this author went under my radar as she is a highly acclaimed author but I’m glad I’ve found her.

This story the classic coming-of-age story of a young wizard named Ged. Ged has a natural talent for magic which is what gets him away from his poor upbringing and into a prestigious school to hone his magical skills. However, Ged is overly confident and he makes a mistake that will affect him for the rest of his life. After learning the hard way the cost of power, Ged must find a way to deal with the Shadow that he has released upon the world and come to realize that you are defined not by your mistakes but how your rise to overcome and learn from them.

“You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do.”

 

Ged’s trials are what makes this book timeless as the message the story provides to youth is essential, especially when the majority of kids are terrified of making mistakes. The book also emphasizes kinship and friendship with others and with animals and the choices it takes to be brave. That, and what kid doesn’t want to read about winning over dragons and beating their own shadows? This book is exciting enough to appease any youth reader and insightful enough to satisfy any teacher or parent. In a way, I am surprised that this series doesn’t have more a cult following as I imagined it reading like the Harry Potter of its day.

What is also pivotal in this book, especially considering its date of publication is the colour of Ged’s skin. Ged is described as dark-skinned and is not Caucasian, despite the cover art on most of the earlier published books. Imagine the ethnic minority readers this would have spoken to in the late 60s, and even today, who might have never had a character to admire or look up before that looked like them. Ursula became known for pushing boundaries on gender, race, environmentalism and more in some of her other works adding that exceptional element of brilliance to her writing.

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Image by Charles Vess

While I have heard that this novel isn’t necessarily Ursula’s best work it laid the foundation for a phenomenal series and I know for me, it has made me want to read her more well-known adult novels and series. I would highly recommend that this book and its series be added as an essential to any fantasy-readers list and for those that love YA. This book is perfect for almost all ages making it a great book to re aloud to children or for those kids reading on their own.

 

Homes: A Refugee Story by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah

This is why we need books. How else could we, being privileged to be born in a safe country, possibly know what a person like Abu Bakr has been through.

4/5 stars.
ebook, 136 pages.
Read on February 5, 2019.

For those that know nothing about this book going into it, as I did, I encourage you to keep it that way because by the time I got to the end I was blown away on how this novel came to be. Also, I don’t know about you but as a Canadian, this book fills me with pride knowing that we are continuing to make this kind of impact, especially considering the current political atmosphere. I read this book in one sitting because I was so in awe of Abu Bakr’s story.

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Chuck Comeau will be defending Homes during the debates on March 25-28, 2019.

This is the first book in the Canada Reads 2019 shortlist that I have read so far. Will it take the cake during the debates? We will find out.

 

Abu Bakr and his family were originally from Iraq but when tensions turned violent over Shias and the Sunnis his father made the decision to move to Syria in hopes of a safer and better life. Abu Bakr is just a boy when he makes this move and initially, he is filled with excitement as it means that he gets to be close to his cousins. However, this safe haven turns into a war zone under president Assad and Abu Bakr’s childhood is robbed from him as he comes into his teenage years knowing the sounds of bullets, the colour of blood and ripped flesh, as well as intense grief and fear as it rips through Syria. Abu Bakr’s father had a plan from the start when they moved to Syria and it was to get on a refugee list with the UN. He was diligent and he called all the time to try and get his family somewhere safer. His diligence eventually pays off but it still comes with a steep emotional fee for Abu Bakr and his family.

Once in Canada Abu Bakr and his family face a new set of trials, starting with learning English since none of them speak a word. Here Abu Bakr gives an honest account of his first-time experiences in Canada and how he learned to connect with others through soccer.

So here is where I think the spoiler is, as I am reading this book I got the impression that Abu Bakr is full grown man discussing his childhood and how he came to live in Canada with his remarkable and tragic story. Then I get to the acknowledgements I come to realize that Abu Bakr is still a high school student and has only been in Canada a few years! With the help of his English teacher, Winnie Yeung, the two of them create this moving story of his journey to Canada.  What an achievement! I mean, what the hell were you doing when you his age? Certainly not learning how to survive in a war-ridden and death-filled country and then learning another language to write a selling novel about the whole ordeal. This is why we need books. How else could we, being privileged to be born in a safe country, possibly know what a person like Abu Bakr has been through. How can we come to appreciate what we have with gratitude? We listen and we read.

For anyone that doesn’t understand the refugee crisis and supports closing borders, I beg you to read a few more books like this one. Stories of immigration and refugees in Canada are becoming more prominent and it’s because it’s becoming a part of who we are and their stories are becoming ours. This book felt extra special to me as Abu Bakr moved to a city that’s three hours away from where I grew up and knowing that he has had a positive experience with Canadians warms my heart. I would highly recommend this light, short, and moving read for any Canadians. I would also extend this book recommendation to any Americans who want to know more about the positive experiences of keeping your borders open.

The Last Threshold by R.A. Salvatore

Oh man, THAT ENDING?! I mean, it can’t be true right? 

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 384 pages.
Read from November 8, 2018 to November 13, 2018.

I think this book was meant to be the last one on Drizzt but as I am clearly behind with the series by a few years so it’s consoling to know that it isn’t, because, oh man, THAT ENDING?! I mean, it can’t be true right?

Drizzt is still travelling with Dahlia and his former arch-enemy Artemis. Drizzt is beginning to distance himself from Dahlia as he can see that there is a bond forming between her and Artemis. He needs to explore his feelings further as his initial jealousy fades away into nothing and he isn’t sure why. Dahlia is still working on dealing with her past and will find herself in a position to redeem herself with her son, Effron. Drizzt is surprised when his companions decide to follow him on his next adventure to Icewind Dale, especially Artemis as he begins to show his true character, but Drizzt will need their assistance when it comes to battling out what Tiago Baenre has in store for him.

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Does else have a fictional crush on Drizzt like I do?

Drizzt makes the revelation we were all hoping that he would come to in this book but definitely not with the ending the Salvatore gave us. Many fans were disappointed with the ending and I can understand why but I personally don’t think it could have ended any other way. Drizzt is too much of badass fighter and a decent person to have it end any other way. I admit, I am disappointed it came from Dahlia, as I wasn’t her biggest fan, but ultimately I agree with Salvatore’s choice of ending. It’s hard to talk about the book without spoiling a bit so here is your warning. Drizzt does ditch Dahlia. This is one thing many fans were happy about, myself included. Dahlia’s character just wasn’t dynamic enough for me and I didn’t feel that she was a worthy partner to Drizzt. However, in terms of rebound relationships, Dahlia was perfect for Drizzt as he learned so much from the time he spent with her and was able to get back to his roots and true self in the end along with new perspectives on his beliefs on righteousness. I secretly hope that Dahlia and Artemis become a thing now they might be good for each other.

It was also this book that made me decide to read The Sellswords series which is a side trilogy that follows the time Artemis and Jarlaxle spend together which I wasn’t initially planning on reading. However, this Neverwinter series alludes so much to that time that I really wanted to know all the additional details. I also found myself really liking Artemis and now I want to know more about his change in character.

Now that this major part of the expansive series is done, I can hardly wait to see where the next book is going to take me. Where will Drizzt be in the next book and who will he be with? Ahhh I can’t wait!