A few months ago, when the idea of reading Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea cycle seemed distant and unrealistic, I came across a colleague reading the books. Flipping through a few pages, I noted the fairytale-like writing - it felt like Le Guin was sitting next to me and telling me a story in the most simple and straight-forward fashion. At the time, I concluded that the Earthsea books must be the kind that were best read in childhood. Despite loving Le Guin's writing and wondrous imagination, I felt that I had missed my opportunity.
This past Thursday, an old, clearly read copy of the Earthsea Quartet (the first four books, through Tehanu) was given to me as a stepping stone into the wider world of fantasy. On Friday I began to read, and by Saturday afternoon, I had completed the first two books and was ready to start the third.
The weird and wonderful thing about this specific edition of the Earthsea books is that it's a compilation. Normally, I dislike reading sequels one after the other (to avoid the stories blending), but with the Earthsea books, the time periods jump so drastically between books that there was no problem. I finished A Wizard of Earthsea, ate lunch, and immediately began to read The Tombs of Atuan. A few hours later I was done... and itching to read more.
My original assessment stands - I probably would have loved the Earthsea books as a kid. And yet even now as a relatively young adult, I'm completely into the story, appreciative of the characters, and enthralled by Le Guin's method of presenting it. I'm eager to find out what happens, excited and entertained. Yes, there's something childish, or child-geared to the writing, but this doesn't detract from my adult-mind appreciation. It's just good storytelling.