Misses Le Guinn is considered one of the Grandmasters of the fantasy genre, and WoE demonstrates exactly why. The book is written almost like an epic poem in prose, and follows the beginning of the life of a wizard known as Sparrowhawk, or Ged. Ged has lived the first eleven years of his life on the Isle of Gont, one of many isles in the world of Earthsea, where Wizards are real.
As a child he learns from a witch who lives in the village, before using the power he has just learned to turn a group of marauders back from the village. Because of this event he is sent off to study with the wizard Ogion. Eventually he is sent to the Wizard academy on the island of Roke, where he unknowingly frees an evil force. Ged spends the rest of the book pursuing the Shadow before finally confronting it for the final time and at the end of the world.
Magic in Earthsea is like no other system you've ever seen. Very little magic is true change. There are charms that patch boats, and do any number of other things. However, most magic utilises an object's "true name" to change or summon it. We see examples of this when Ged and some of his friends are playing with magic at the academy. Springs are called up from the ground, but the water was not truly refreshing or filling. Magic is rarely made permanent, as anything that causes permanent change can possibly unbalance the world.