While I'm on my fantasy kick, I decided to re-read some books that have been sitting on my shelf for years.
My grandmother got me a collection to Ursula Le Guin books while I was in middle school and on a huge science fiction reading kick. Let's just say I wasn't entirely pleased, but did read them. I had forgotten much of the details, but remembered that I enjoyed them, and was excited to read them again.
The first three, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, and The Farthest Shore are a must read for fantasy lovers. The style of writing and epic adventure story line reminds me of Lord of the Rings. The "main" character, Ged, is an amazing hero, that I really want to support. Each of these stories can stand by themselves as an individual story (unlike the Lord of the Rings trilogy). However, reading them in order adds a depth to each successive book that would be missed otherwise.
I was excited when I found out that Le Guin had continued the series with Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind.
However, after reading Tehanu and Tales from Earthsea, I must confess that I'm not as excited to read The Other Wind as I previously was.
The collection of stories in Tales from Earthsea was a great collection of short stories, each with intriguing characters and interesting plots.
However, the difference between the original three books and Tehanu is striking. You can tell that Ursula K. Le Guin has undergone some personal changes. The book lacks the epic adventure that was at the heart of her first three books, moving at an often painfully slow pace with adventure and plot development few and far between. The book does focus on roles of male and female in society, not so carefully disguised under the cloak of magic. The theme was intriguing for me. Unfortunately, the story line, while interesting in parts, was not enough to engage the reader.
The interesting thing about these books is Le Guin's incredibly original twist on dragons and their origins and relation to people. (Sorry, no plot spoilers here.)
I still plan on reading The Other Wind, just because there is no way I can leave a series unfinished.
So my final recommendation: Read the first three books. They are FANTASTIC. But feel free to stop there.