The Farthest Shore was written for tweens and teens, so if you just want a good fantasy full of adventure and daring and DRAGONS (the best part!), ignore all of the following and just enjoy. This is a story the meaning of which will derive from the beliefs of the individual reader. Had I read it when I still held spiritual beliefs, I would doubtless have fit the story into a framework of religious allegory and symbolism. As I am now comfortable in my unbelief, I focused on the more concrete themes of right use of power and man's fear of death. The plot headed off in directions I was not expecting, so I'll preserve the suspense for future readers and not reveal many specifics. Briefly, Sparrowhawk (Ged) is now the Archmage on the Isle of Roke. He sets off on a journey with Prince Arren to visit places in Earthsea where the magic is dying. They don't know exactly what they're seeking as they travel. They only hope to discover why the spells are not working, and to restore the Balance before it's too late. Sparrowhawk is a wise leader who does not squander his power. Prince Arren wonders why the Archmage doesn't use magic more often to make life easier for himself. Arren learns that power is not something to be used just because you have it. It must be carefully guarded and nurtured so it will be at full strength when it's most needed. With power comes responsibility. Sparrowhawk saves his power so it will be available when he calls it forth to serve all of Earthsea, rather than using it for his own benefit. The second thread I found running throughout the story was that of the universal fear of death. Humans cannot get their minds around the idea of future non-existence. They will strike any bargain, embrace any belief system, if it will allow them to maintain the illusion of some sort of immortality. I think it's a consequence of evolution to higher thought capabilities. We're able to project our minds forward to our own death, but not beyond. I'm already treading on the border of spoiler territory, so I'll go no further. It's instructive, though, to follow that theme through to the end.I enjoyed this one more than The Tombs of Atuan because it has a lot more action and excitement. Tombs made me a little claustrophobic with so much of it taking place underground. I get the symbolism, but I prefer the aboveground journeys of Books 1 and 3.