Powers is the third (and I truly hope not final) book in Le Guin’s Annals of the Western Shore series, and should be read following Gifts and Voices, in that order. The protagonist is Gavir, a boy who was born in the marshes, but was abducted into slavery (along with his sister) at a young age. He has no memory of life other than as a slave, and is content with his lot in life. They live with a large, well-off household. The household values education, and schools both its children and its slaves in the basics. Gav is chosen to become the future tutor, so he is more educated than the others. His sister is chosen to become the concubine of the family’s eldest son, and she is thrilled with this choice as she and the eldest son have some semblance of love connection. Gav has always had visions of things yet to come in his life – he calls it “remembering” though he is remembering the future rather than the past. His sister is the only one who knows, and she urges him to keep it a secret.
Eventually a series of bad things (war, kidnapping, rape, murder, etc) occur which cause Gav to run away. Being an escaped slave is no easy life. Gav wanders aimlessly at first, but slowly starts to trace his roots back to the marshes and determine what kind of person he is, what is important to him, and what he wishes to do with his future. It’s truly a story of growing up, and is told in such a way that you can’t help but root for Gav to find happiness.
At one point, he mentions that he never talks about all these past things, but he is writing them down for his wife. By the end of the book, I did not know who his wife was. I know who I *want* it to be (Memer), but unless Le Guin writes another book or seven about the Western Shore, I’m afraid I will never know.
The whole Annals of the Western Shore series is full of imagination. Each culture is created in a way that seems real, and none are judged too harshly, even the slavers and book burners, but at the same time there is never any doubt that Le Guin is writing a love story to education and books. Reading is what binds the main characters of each book to each other, but also what provides each with the necessary skills to escape the shitty situation they start off in and find a way toward a better life.