Re: Powers

It’s dangerous to come in at the third novel of a series. You might get bogged down in recaps. You might get dumped into the middle and left totally confused. Powers, by Ursula K. Le Guin, opens at a new begining. Gavir, a young slave in the household of Arcamand, looks forward to becoming a teacher (but he’ll still be a slave). He has a perfect memory and another kind of remembering that looks into the future. He is reluctant to think ill of the House, and blames the wrongs done on the particular perpetrators, until he is brutally reminded that even to the heads of the House he and those he loves are property.

Driven mad with grief, he wanders his world in an absorbing picaresque reminiscent of ancient Greece with perhaps Akkadia or Sumeria with some marsh Arabs and a wandering Scot or two tossed in. Wherever he goes, you’re always noticing who is a slave and who is free, and whether they’re as free as they think. Gavir serves a rebel who promises freedom but is just as bad as a warlord. He lives with a people who seem free but demand strict constraints before they will teach him. In the last 50 pages, the pace suddenly picks up with a taut chase before he finally escapes to a place where he’ll be safe and free to use his gifts.

While the story stands on its own, it ended so suddenly I was left with the sense that I had just read a really long chapter. I suspect I need to read the previous books to get a full sense of the grand narrative. I just might do that.