A Wizard of Earthsea  - Ruth Robbins, Ursula K. Le Guin Ged, aka "Sparrowhawk," goes to wizard school on the Isle of Roke. In rivalry with another student, he abuses his new powers, unintentionally unleashing a dark force. He pays dearly for his foolish dabbling and is scarred for life. He feels great remorse and wants to make things right, vowing to use his powers only for good, but he can't seem to outrun the shadow spirit he awakened. Finally, Ged comes to understand that he'll have to pursue the shadow and conquer it, or it will plague him and Earthsea forever. With his steadfast friend Vetch, Ged makes a long journey "to the coasts of death's kingdom." He faces down his demon and becomes "a man: who, knowing his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life's sake and never in the service of ruin or pain, or hatred, or the dark." (Best description of manhood I've ever found---ever.)This book has all the elements of the traditional fantasy questing tale: developing magical powers, fighting the dragon, lonely travels, loyal friends, sinister enemies, and venturing into the great unknown for a final showdown. A Wizard of Earthsea is set apart from others in the genre by two things: 1) its strong literary quality (Harry Potter it ain't).2) its understated wisdom, often shared by the older mages and wizards who train Ged. Ged's first teacher, Ogion, is especially wise, and he also happens to be my favorite character. If you like critters, you'll want to acquire some new pets after reading this story. I'll start my Earthsea menagerie with a harrekki, a miniature dragon that lives in oak trees and dines on wasps and worms and sparrows' eggs. I'll let it hang from my sleeve and feed it table scraps. This was a satisfying story and I look forward to reading the next book in the cycle. Meanwhile, I'll keep my ears alert for the flapping of scaly wings.