The different tribes in the Uplands are constantly feuding. Each family has a certain Gift that can be used to help or injure someone else. Orrec is 13 and still hasn't gained the family gift. Usually it shows by age 9 or so. His friend Gry has the Gift of Calling animals. She uses it for training but her mother uses to call animals in for the hunt.
Orric's father, Canoc, has the terrible Gift of Unmaking. With a glance, a motion, and his will, he can "unmake" something - either killing something live or unknotting a knot. This is a fierce Gift in a feud. This is also the Gift Orrec should manifest. His mother, Melle, is from the Lowlands and doesn't have any of the special gifts. When Orric finally does gain his power, it is with disastrous results. Now everyone is afraid of him.
Gry and Orric's families are allies. Ogga Drumm, one of the more powerful men in the Uplands, isn't trusted by either family. When Ogga Drumm visits Canoc and Melle and invites them to come stay in his hold, they go reluctantly. This may be the chance to make peace between the clans and cut back the feuds.
Ursula Le Guin has a history of good fantasy novels and good young adult novels. As readers, we appreciate when she combines them. Gifts is an odd tale the reader will appreciate. It spans the years from Orric being a child to the realization of his to to a young man with life responsibilities. He has responsibilities for his family, his clan, and his Gift. The first person narration portrays the mental changes, the frustrations, and the maturing to realize who he is.
Gifts is full of sorrow. These happenings are then what make Orric strong by the end and ready to face the future he could fulfill. The characters are all written thru the eyes of a maturing boy, so are not fully realized. Instead, they are confined to his perceptions and prejudices. That adds to the tale, knowing that there is more happening than the reader can see or hear.
This book is easy to read and most people in the intended age group (12 and up) should be able to identify with Orric.
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