Annals of the Western Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin is a trilogy, Gifts, Voices and Powers. It is not clear if there are other titles in the works. The books are marketed as Young Adult Fantasy but, as with most Le Guin titles, they can be enjoyed by adults.
Gifts tells story of the Upland clans, who struggle to survive in a harsh environment . Each clan has a special gift, passed down through each generation. These are powerful, threatening gifts including mind control, the ability to twist and deform a body, death from a wasting illness. The gifts are used to protect each territory and to overpower others. The clans live in fear, worried that a neighbor might use their gift as a weapon.
There are two dear friends, Orrec and Gyr, who refuse to use their powers in ways that will harm others. They struggle against their families and their heritage to find a right use for their gifts and, in doing so, grow into their true selves.
Voices tells of the city of Ansul, once a thriving place of merchants and scholars, conquered by the Alds who believe reading and writing are works of the devil. The people of the city are poor and struggle under the occupation. A young women named Memer lives in Oracle House, once a place of great learning, and learns to read with the help of The Waylord. The Alds believe Oracle House is a place filled with deamons.
Then one day a storyteller from the Uplands arrives in the city, along with his wife and their lion. Everything in Memer’s live changes as she learns her true calling.
Powers follows the lives of Gavir and Sallo, a brother and sister captured in the marshes and brought as slaves to the city of Etra. They live in a great house where they are well treated, considered part of the family. Gavir is trained to be a teacher but struggles with strange visions. Sallo is raised to be a “Gift-Girl” for a young man of the great house. They never question their lives until tragedy strikes. This is a story of trust and betrayal, trials and self discovery.
All three of these books are beautifully written, in clear flowing language. Le Guin evokes the land and the people with quiet grace. Powers has just been awarded the 2008 Nebula Award for best novel. I am hoping there are more books in this wonderful series.