I finished the fourth book in the Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin, Tehanu yesterday afternoon. It is the best of the series so far. Tenar and Sparrowhawk are back, but time has passed from when we previously saw Tenar, 25 years. And there is a new character, a little girl that has been badly burned, Therru, who Tenar has adopted.
What is more notable is that 18 years passed between the publishing of The Farthest Shore and Tehanu. And in that time, the world changed a lot and Le Guin definitely feels more freedom to push some boundaries and ideas with her characters. In the afterwords she’s written for these newly released books, Le Guin talked about being subversive by making the main character a character of color in A Wizard of Earthsea. When it comes to the character of Tenar in Tehanu, Le Guin is pushing at gender inequalities with so many interesting conversations between Tenar and Sparrowhawk. It’s fitting with her character that she would be this way, now that she’s raised a family and a widow, she now wants her tastes of freedom.
And the character of Therru is another push in that direction. The mages of Roke are looking for a woman (shocking!) that will help them understand who the next Archmage should be or what to do next. And, in their own ways, both Therru and Tenar contribute to helping us understand what is to happen next.
I can’t wait to see where the final book goes, as it is written even more recently than Tehanu.