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  • Gifts
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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Format: Hardcover|Change

on 1 January 2006
I was surprised when I saw a recent profile of Le Guin in The Guardian which mentioned that she had begun a new series of books - the first of which is GIFTS. I admire Le Guin so much that I was wary approaching it - not wanting an idol to fall at this stage. There are very few writers of her age who would embark on such a thing and even fewer who could capture and sustain an audience for a fresh series of books. However, my trepidation was unfounded: Le Guin is (as always) an exception - GIFTS is a majestic, troubling and powerful book. It treads completely fresh ground - although there are thematic trheads that tie it particularly to the latter books in the Earthsea sequence: Tehanu and The Other Wind. It is resolutely an adult novel that only comes into the fantasy genre by default. As with all her fiction she sketches in a new world deftly and subtly so that you scarcely notice what it is she has done. She never uses pyrotechnics or familiar genre tricks. She just writes with piercing honesty and simplicity. Over the years I've read the odd review of Le Guin books criticising either her prose style or her politics: flat, dull preaching. To such critics I say "numbskulls" - Le Guin's prose is sparse, yes, but it is stylish. Her politics are visible but they are thought through and measured. She is provocative, but never on a soap box. I hope she is hale and hearty and long-long lived and that GIFTS marks the beginning of a sequence of books as remarkable as Earthsea was - but written by a wise old woman who, I suspects, knows everything implortant that there is to be known about the human condition.
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on 26 March 2017
Different but similar to the earthsea tales.
Very earthy feel to the stories.
About talents which could be used for good or bad.
Cant wait to read next book.
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on 11 August 2017
Not Earthsea I was expecting. The ending wasn't up to her usual standard. You may disagree
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on 28 May 2017
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on 5 March 2006
While not quite in the class of the Earthsea sequence (especially The Other Wind, the latest and greatest, but there again neither is anything else) this is still a wonderful book - economically written, moral, compelling and involving. I read it a single sitting then had to re-read it immediately. Looking forward to the next book in this new series!
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on 22 June 2010
A boy's Gift is so powerful that he volunteered to be blinded so that he could not hurt another. He lives among the clans of the hills, clans with Gifts who do not neccesarily live peacefully or act with honour. Into this world comes an outsider, to stir things up.

Le Guin's style is one of conflict without bloody violence, which makes her very fresh and easy to read. She doesn't shy from it, just doesn't let it drive her stories.

Her characters are subsequently fully rounded and developed and they drive the story in personal directions. I love this non-epic fantasy - it's very rewarding.

Gifts departs from Earthsea (hope Le Guin goes back there some day) and is set in its own culture who comprise the folk of the Western Shore. It is the first book in the sequence, followed by Voices and Powers.

The life of the protagonist and the clans are richly told as the story unfolds. It can be quite tragic, but Le Guin manages to uplift the hero and the reader by the end, leaving one hopeful for the boy's future.

I thoroughly recommend it.
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on 4 November 2006
In Ursula K. Le Guin's GIFTS, the gifts in question bring more trouble than happiness to the novel's main character, sixteen-year-old Orrec. Orrec lives in the Uplands, a rough landscape where small clans squabble amongst themselves to maintain their land holdings and cattle herds. The leader of each clan has a specific gift: a mystical power that allows them to call animals or twist human bodies with the force of their mind. Orrec is the next in line to lead his clan, and his family's gift is
one of the most terrible: the undoing. His father can kill a man with a word and a gesture, and it is expected that Orrec will come into the same power. However, when Orrec's power arrives, it is wild and uncontrollable, and he must stay blind-folded to avoid harming those he loves.

The best thing about this outstanding novel is its premise. Everyone has wished at one time or another for a secret power. GIFTS forces the question: what if your having such a gift caused harm to the people around you? It gives no easy answers, exploring the issue with depth and feeling. The society and culture of the Uplanders is detailed and realistic, making the conflicts that much more powerful. Readers will quickly feel as though they've lived in this wonderful and terrifying world themselves.

As narrator, Orrec is thoughtful and questioning, with a rhythmic voice that recalls traditional story-tellers. He handles the tragedies and disappointments in his life with honesty and good humor. Despite being from a somewhat alien world, his view is very human and teens will find it easy to see through his eyes. When he is finally able to face the most disappointing truth of all, readers will cheer even as they share his pain.

GIFTS is an excellent read for teens of all interests. Fans of fantasy will be particularly drawn to it, but the world is grounded enough in earthly reality that it should appeal even to those who usually avoid the fantastical. Thought-provoking and suspenseful, with a dollop of action and romance, a novel like this is a gift to its readers.

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This book is mostly told as a story to a traveller given refuge from the winter and who wants to know why Orrec, a teenage boy, has been blinded. It's told in a lyrical manner in the nature of a fairytale or folk legend and tells of Orrec's story and that of his friend Gry who live in a life of small family based tribes/clans in a rural landscape. Each grouping has a gift which can be used for good or ill but Orrec's is potentially wild and has created death and destruction and Gry refuses to use hers as others want.

This is a simple tale - at least it appears simple and it is not a very long book. In fact, the author is addressing all sorts of issues around coming of age and family expectations as well as what it is like to swim against the flow whilst wanting to belong. These are issues dealt with in many Young Adult fantasy novels but Ms Le Guin gives these themes real depth and lots of thought in that straightforward narrative. Nothing incredibly dramatic happens here except the relationship between people and the awareness of young people that what they thought they knew is false. It's really powerful when you realise with Orrec the depth of self-deception.

It's a fantasy novel in a world with strange gifts but in the end it's a story about young people where the author reveals so much about humanity. It would be suitable as a Young Adult novel but I certainly wouldn't restrict it to younger reader.
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VINE VOICEon 26 March 2013
I've long admired Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books, but this is the first story outside that cycle that I've read. It's the opener of the so-called Annals of the Western Shore trilogy, set in an imaginary world whose places and people are briskly introduced in the first few pages with sentences like "If he'd believed what they told him down in Danner, he'd never have come up to Caspromant".

The tale (which is written for young adults, but contains much for adults to mull over) is about Gry and Orrec, who are struggling to come to terms with the psychic powers (the gifts of the title) which they've inherited from their families. Gry can call animals, while Orrec has the gift of destruction. But Gry won't use her gift for hunting, and Orrec is apparently unable to control his. And their families expect them to use their gifts in the building up of their domains, and maintaining the uneasy peace that exists with their neighbors; the story focuses on how Gry and (mainly) Orrec learn to cope with the tension between what they want and what's expected of them. As usual, Le Guin writes in a simple, direct style which is yet extraordinarily effective and poetic. This is a thought-provoking, compelling story which makes me look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
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on 21 February 2017
I thought the premise of this was unique and interesting but I found it tedious to read. Not much actually happens and there is too much brutality in this world for me.
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