Something is amiss in Earthsea; magic is losing its potency and singers are forgetting the words of the ancient songs. A young prince Arren is sent to Roke Island as a messenger to speak to the Archmage. The Archmage is Ged, known from the two previous books about Earthsea. Ged is now an elderly man with high repute. Together Ged and Arren travel towards to farthest parts of Earthsea and beyond in order to restore balance.
Young Arren is the main narrator of “The Farthest Shore”. To begin with he is a spoiled, but humble prince and boy, but his journey is a great one – not only to the farthest islands of Earthsea, but towards maturity as a person through primarily his relationship with Ged. I may be repeating myself from the reviews of the earlier books, but Ursula Le Guin’s forte is the emotional development of the characters. Arren starts out seeing Ged as the Lord Archmage. Through their journey, he sees him as a trickster, as an old man, as strong, weak, fair, unfair, as multi-facetted as he is. The relationship between generations is one of the topics I noted in “The Farthest Shore”. At the beginning of the novel, Ged is a schoolmaster, and through the book be becomes master of the ship, teacher, mentor, friend, and a kind of ward.
Another issue in the novel is the inevitability of death and the balance of the world. Without saying too much: there are some in Earthsea who wish to live forever through magic. Their actions ripple through Earthsea with devastating results and Ged (and Arren) must go further than they thought possible. Neither returns as the same person.