Annals of the Western Shore Trilogy, by Ursula K. LeGuin: A Review

I chose to read Voices, book two of the trilogy, Annals of the Western Shore, by Ursula K. LeGuin, for #39 on the 2018 Reading Challenge, a book that involves a bookstore or library. I had this book on my shelf already, a random purchase from a random used book source. Based on the description it involves a library. It is, however, the second book of the series so I had to read the first one before I could read Voices. In the end, I decided to read the entire series, and I’m glad I did.

All three of these books – Gifts, Voices, Powers – are written as a first person recollection. It is three individuals telling their own story. LeGuin is a master storyteller, and each book is beautifully written. These books are interrelated, but not all one story. They could each be read as stand alone novels and not lose anything.

Gifts tells the story of Orrec, a young man from the Uplands, a rural society divided into fiefs. Each fief is governed by a family that has an inherited “gift” of one sort or another. These gifts define the families and set them apart as rivals. Orrec is the son of one such gifted individual and the book takes him on a journey of self-discovery that ultimately leads him away from his own people.

Voices is the story of Memer Galva, a “siege brat” who has grown up in a home with a secret, hidden library. Her city of Ansul was overthrown by an invading army seventeen years before the story opens. The conquerors have set about destroying the written word, seeking a source of power they believe to be demonic. Memer’s story is also one of self-discovery as she must come to grips with her own place in her city and in its struggle for freedom.

Powers tells of a boy, Gavir, a slave raised and educated for the purpose of teaching members of his master’s household. When he is betrayed by the very people with whom he placed his trust, Gavir goes off on his own journey of self-discovery. Ultimately, Gavir returns to the people from whom he was stolen away as a babe, only to find he doesn’t belong there either.

These books are full of beautiful description and a wonderful sense of place. They are not high on action, however, so they do at times feel a little slow. LeGuin’s characters are compelling and interesting, and I enjoyed reading their stories. The third book, Powers, received the 2008 Nebula Award for Best Novel. Overall this series is great and well worth the read. Personally, Voices was my favorite of the three, but they are all good.