The time is out of joint in Earthsea, but it will not be Ged--seeking a new raison d'etre while grieving his recently lost powers as Archmage and hiding from the animosity of minor wizards--who can set it right. A just, new young king (who was Ged's companion in The Farthest Shore, 1972) has come to the throne, but evil still fills the land: as the story opens, Tenar (the young priestess of The Tombs of Atuan, 1971, Newbery Honor), now the widow of Farmer Flint, adopts a young child (Therru) who has been viciously abused and maimed by her own parents. Together, the king, Tenar, and Therru hold the power and potential of what is to come. Tenar is the central figure--nurturing Ged through his crisis of self-definition and establishing a new, earthly relationship with him; and nourishing the Dragon-child Therru, who springs from a power as ancient, vital, and terrifying as life itself. Yes, there are dragons; but the human story and its meaning are primary here. Unlike Ged's, Le Guin's power is undiminished. She weaves contemporary concerns--the roles of men and women, the theft of resources from and the passage of power to the next generation--into a tale with the universality and dignity of legend. Ged and Tenar are past middle age here, and the action moves slowly as Le Guin explores her themes; but even young readers will be beguiled by the flawless, poetic prose, the philosophy expressed in thoughtful, potent metaphor, and the consummately imagined world. A grand conclusion to a revered cycle.