(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In The Farthest Shore, the last novel in Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy, the mythical world of Earthsea is threatened with annihilation. All the arts and crafts of human life are slipping into decay; people are losing the will to live and to create. Foremost among the eroding powers is the master power of magic. The archmage of the school of wizards, Ged, sets out with Arren, a young prince destined to rule Earthsea, to discover what is happening to their world and prevent its destruction. They eventually discover that the cause of the "unmaking" of their world is the wizard Cob, whose fear of death is so strong that he would destroy Earthsea to preserve his own life. On their search, they encounter pirates, prophets, and dragons.

Le Guin has created a double adventure story centered on the problem of death. While the magician Ged and Prince Arren search for the source of the destruction, Ged helps Arren learn what he must know to become king. The climax of both adventures is the encounter with the fear of death.

Like the first two novels in the trilogy, The Farthest Shore shows a young person in the process of growing to adulthood. Each book deals with a major feature of maturing. A Wizard of Earthsea portrays the young magician Ged learning to handle his "shadow self," those aspects of his personality that are frightening and sometimes overpowering. The Tombs of Atuan looks at the special problems a young woman...

(The entire section is 424 words.)