A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Among the diverse archipelago of Earthsea, the island of Gont is famous for wizards and of the Gontish wizards, the greatest is the man called Sparrowhawk. Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic 1968 work of high fantasy tells the tale of Sparrowhawk’s origins: his humble beginnings, the discovery of his great power, his education at the School for Wizards on the island of Roke. It is during a wizarding duel at school that Ged (Sparrowhawk’s true name) stretches beyond his power. His spell goes awry, and a shadow beast rips its way through the fabric of the world – intent on taking over Ged’s body and his magic.
The first of six books Le Guin would go on to write about this meticulously crafted universe, A Wizard of Earthsea feels truly mythic. The story here, written in a lyrical formal style, weaves itself around you like an epic from ages past: not just a story but a bardic song passed down. The wizardry is not the patchworked coziness of Hogwarts, but rather the rough-hewn mysticism of monastic orders. It has everything a young fantasy nerd could want: magic lessons, school friends and enemies, legendary beasts, and pulse-quickening epic quests. And among its short 200 pages, Le Guin also scatters profound wisdom about life, human nature and the balance of the natural world.
This compassionate and beguiling book is an ideal bridge into the genre of high fantasy for readers ages 10+ who may not be ready yet for the length of Tolkien or some of the more adult situations in YA fantasy.