Powers: Annals of the Western Shore, Book 3 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
Nebula Award Winner, Novel, 2008
Young Gavie sometimes "remembers" the future. But as a slave living among those who feel threatened by the powers of the Marsh people, Gavie must hide his abilities. And then tragic events force the grief-stricken Gavie to flee the only world he's ever known. In his perilous quest for freedom, Gavie must learn to harness his unique gifts, or he may never find a place he can call home.
Ursula K. Le Guin's haunting epic of survival, selfdiscovery, and hope is third in a sequence that begins with her PEN Award-winning Gifts.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 41 minutes|
|Author||Ursula K. Le Guin|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||March 27, 2008|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #201,119 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#165 in Teen Fiction on Racism & Discrimination
#386 in Coming of Age Fiction for Teens
#507 in Fiction on Family for Teens
Top reviews from the United States
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The writing is simple and clear. Sentences are deceptively easy with shorter words (never use two syllables when one will do) and not too much jargon. Mostly only the names are unusual. The lands of Etra and the Western Shore could be ancient Greece, which Le Guin, highly educated in history, anthropology and archaeology was well familiar with. The Western Shore culture, as in her Orsinian Tales, is vaguely Mediterranean. You can imagine the bards and poets of this book are Homer and Sappho, reciting their works at dinner feasts .
The theme of trust and betrayal is repeated over and over in the book; the "Mother" (mistress of the household where Gavir is slave) is the protector of the slaves yet....gives Gavir's sister as a "gift girl" to her son, and at the end ot that portion of the story, betrays her and Gavir. Death is the result and trust is broken forever. Gavir trusts his teacher among his people, but discovers he is again being betrayed, and so must wander some more to find his true home.
The theme of Freedom and Slavery is openly about the slave culture of the Western Shore; slaves cannot have families, babies are born and sold immediately and ultimately, though the death of a slave is sometimes punishable, it's the punishment due the loss of a property, not the loss of a human life. But the real slavery also includes the lot of women; young girl slaves who are not sent to the fields are sexual slaves, and even though perhaps "belonging" to one man, are frequently passed around or taken by others. Ultimately, the "Mother", the nobelwoman who runs one of the estates, has no power over what happens to the women under her care.
Women in the Marshland are ridiculed, their talents belittled and they live in separate villages, men can't go into the woman village, women into the men's and the Marsh people (modeled perhaps after Indigenous people of North America) end up treating women poorly. The fate of women in a "free city" isn't much better; the strong man dictator owns them and in fact in the entire book, women seem scarce and always property of another.
Over all, the writing is elegant and yet, with a few words, an entire scene, culture, event is sketched out so you see it vividly. If you want to know how Le Guin accomplishes this magic, read "Steering the Craft" which is her book that is a tutorial on writing fiction but is also for readers, a key to what makes a truly great author.
This book handles big subjects with Le Guin's usual deftness and leaves you wanting more at the end, more story, more of the characters and more from her--but alas, she's gone on and we have what we have now, with gratitude.
Gavir is an eleven-year old slave boy at the beginning of the story. He is one of the Marsh People, which means he is darker skinned than the other people in his life, apart from his older sister, Sallo. Sallo and Gavir were taken when they were small children, too small to have any memory of their former lives. Now they are slaves in the household of a wealthy family in the city-state of Etra. Gavir is content with his life. He is not a farm slave, laboring in the fields, but a house slave, living in comfort with an enlightened master and his family. In this house, slaves are not beaten or tortured. Slave children play with and are educated alongside the children of the Family. Gavir himself is a promising little scholar, who is being groomed to take over the job of teacher to the household once the slave who currently holds that post grows too old to carry on.
Gavir also has powers, hence the title, powers he barely understands himself. The first is that he has occasional visions, brief glimpses of the future. Gavir calls this “remembering,” in the sense of remembering things that have not yet taken place, though Gavir spends most of the story puzzling over what use this power might have, if any.
The invented world in which the story takes place and Gavir’s visions are the only real fantasy elements in this novel, which otherwise could be taken as an historical tale set in the ancient Mediterranean world. Oh, but wait! Gavir has one other power: a photographic memory, although the book never describes it in those words. It’s a phenomenon we are familiar with in our time, but surely would seem magical to those living in a less advanced culture, and indeed it does to Gavir and the people who know him.
The novel follows Gavir for the next six years of his life, until he’s seventeen. His world seems cozy and secure at first, with his future as a teacher in the household of a kindly master an inviting one. But, alas for Gavir, it is not to be. First, a terrible injustice turns Gavir’s world upside down and compels him to flee his master and Etra, and wander the Western Shore in constant danger. For the relationship between master and slave, as Gavir comes to understand, is based not only on power, but also on trust. A slave must be able to trust the master, and if the master betrays the slave, well, even a slave is capable of betrayal in return.
Gavir’s wanderings take him deep into a forest, where he discovers the legends he has heard are true: hidden deep in the wood is a community of escaped slaves, who live in freedom, as equals. Gavir is welcomed among them. He can recite from memory many of the long poems and tales of old for this band of largely illiterate and isolated ex-slaves, which soon makes him a valued and respected member of the community. But in time, there is another injustice, and Gavir must flee again. He makes his way to the marshes, where he reconnects with his clan and his family among the Marsh People. But the Marsh People are an isolated folk with a very different culture. Gavir finds they do not understand him and he cannot understand them. “The slave takers did not only take me from my people,” he muses. “They took my people from me.”
During his stay with the Marsh People, a vision tells him that his former owners do not believe he is dead, as he had hoped, but in fact a slave catcher is tracking him. Gavir now must leave his people, in the hope he can find a place for himself in this world, before the slave catcher has his vengeance. Perhaps Gavir might even at last find a use for his powers.
You expect elegantly crafted prose from Le Guin, and she does not disappoint here. Powers is largely a character study, as we watch Gavir grow from a naive, hopeful tween forced to become a man all too soon in reaction to the harsh world he lives in. And, led along by Le Guin’s sure hand, we grow right along with him. I had the misfortune of reading the climax of Gavir’s story late at night and found myself forced to keep reading into the small hours of the morning as my heart pounded in fear for Gavir as the slave catcher closes in, and ended the story the same way Gavir did—with tears in my eyes.
Powers is a young adult novel in every sense. It is literally the story of growing up. We can all, like Gavir, recall our sojourn from naive child to disillusioned young adult, wondering all the while what place, if any, this disappointing world holds for us, and so readers of any age can find in him some of our own formative experiences. Gavir’s world is a difficult world, but a textured one. There are no black knights, or white ones, just people making their way through tough circumstances, some more admirably than others. This is a long book, for Gavir has a long journey, but that merely means he has well earned his tears of joy on the final page. Journey by his side, and you will earn yours along with him.