Read Ursula Le Guin's The Beginning Place over the past couple days. It's a fantasy novel that starts in real life and follows two lonely characters who somehow walk into a fantasy world. A lot of fantasy like this works on two level, the literal, a fantasy world and an adventure story, and the metaphorical, a story about growing up or friendship or power. In this one makes the metaphorical story, two lonely characters finding each other, the foregound, and fails at the literal level. The fantasy world and the sort of quest that they undertake feels almost completely unnecessary, under developed, and underexplained, which is odd as normally Le Guin is really good at the world building and tying that into a broader theme. The interactions the two protagonists have with the people in the fantasy world, and the sort of quest they go on, all seem to be hinting at something else going on, some deeper mystery, perhaps even some kind of manipulation of the protagonists by the towns people who send them on the quest, yet none of it every plays out. Nothing is revealed about the world or what is going on. The characters leave it. End of story. For me, this was just a pleasant but unsatisfying novel. I don't need narratives to answer all my questions, but I also want to feel like major elements of the narrative are serving a purpose.
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