This is a companion book to LeGuin's earlier, "Gifts," but it also
works as a stand-alone novel. It takes place about 20 years later. The two main characters from "Gifts" do appear, but are not the main characters here.
The story takes place in an occupied and defeated country. The
invaders, distrusting and fearing the written word as a form of
demonic magic, have sought out all books to destroy them. But young Memer has grown up in a household that still secretly houses a forbidden library... and although she is a 'half-breed' child of rape,
she may also be heir to powers and mysteries that the invaders would regard as their worst fears come to life.
However, while "Voices" is an exciting, vivid and magic-filled fantasy story, it is also, like many of LeGuin's books, a serious political commentary. With their hatred of education and disrespect of women, the invaders of this story bear unavoidable parallels to
fundamentalist extremists today. However, although her dislike of such extremism is more than clear, LeGuin makes a compelling and effective argument against violence and revenge, pointing instead to the historically proven economic and social benefits of compromise,
cooperation, and a gradual understanding of each other's humanity by widely differing peoples.
Both entertaining and relevant, the world would be a better place if
everyone in it read this book, and heeded its message.