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Gifts - Ursula K. Le Guin Ursula K. Le Guin is a fantastic writer. She's one of my very favorite writers of all time. If you haven't read The Lathe of Heaven, or the Earthsea books, or The Left Hand of Darkness, I highly recommend them. This book is billed as young adult fiction but there's nothing dumbed-down about it. The story is one that has a universal appeal, I think.

It's set among a rural people who have genetic abilities to call animals, or to unmake things, or to give someone a wasting disease, etc. Each lineage has its own gift. It's a coming of age story, but also just a story about families, people, life.

UKL is the master of saying things without words, things that can't be said in words. She describes thoughts and feelings that are palpable and real, but stated subtly in a way that takes them straight to my heart. The things she leaves unsaid have so much power. Her writing makes me think of the saying "the Tao is an empty vessel" from the Tao Te Ching.

She has the ability to make you care deeply about her characters, and want to know what happens to them. Her stories are deft, catching you up in them before you're aware. She never bludgeons you with the action, the plot, the dialogue, the way some less-skillful and less-sensitive authors do. Her language is full of poetry. She says things in few words, and uses just the right words. Reading her writing is just a joy.

I usually don't like fantasy much. The two exceptions to that are Tolkien and Le Guin. You never question the reality of her worlds. They just have a truth about them that belies invention. It's (just as with Tolkien) as though she has discovered her worlds rather than simply conjured them up in her imagination. You feel as though they were always there.

The book had a satisfying ending as her books usually do. Not necessarily happy endings, but endings that are fitting and right. I highly recommend this book. I'm going to read the other two books in the series next.