Book Review: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tombs of Atuan
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Earthsea Cycle
Author info: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/

This is the second book of the great classic Earthsea Cycle. See my review for the first book here.

A Wizard of Earthsea was about Ged’s journey to become a sorcerer and his struggle with the evil shadow, this book tells the story of Tenar, a young girl taken away from her family at the tender age of five to be raised as the priestess of the Nameless gods.She is forced to shed her identity and they call her Arha in her new life.

It starts a story of loneliness and continues as a story of courage. Tenar is incredibly lonely despite the high position she holds, a position which is more symbolic than one of real power. She has no close friends other than the eunuch guardian, and learning the ways of the dark labyrinths where no light is allowed is a daunting task.

This is not your typical epic fantasy full of action, but a beautiful tale nonetheless. Ursula K. Le Guin’s prose is amazing and the imagery is vivid. This book explores the limits of faith, loyalty, trust and tradition. The stark contrast between the unyielding religious devotion and the doubts hacking away the faith, the religious authorities bending the faith to their agenda or lacking it altogether, the courage to question everything you have been taught and break through the dogma is brilliantly depicted.

As it is mentioned in the blurb,Ged shows up later as a secondary character, and the relationship between Tenar and Ged starting with suspicion and turnign into mutual admiration and trust is fascinating to read. Tenar’s character development is stellar.

This is a great book. I think even the people who found a Wizard of Earthsea boring will like this book. I liked it a lot, it’s different from most fantasy books I read and I loved both the worldbuilding and the philosophical aspects. Earthsea books are leaning more towards literary fiction than genre fiction, but I highly recommend this book and its prequel, A Wizard of Earthsea, to fantasy lovers out there.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

  1. You know, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t THAT crazy about Earthsea until I read this book. I love the switch for when Ged became a secondary character–made him so much more interesting in my mind. Tenar remains one of my favourite women fantasy characters of all time, and she only gets better from here. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is an amazing series, isn’t it? I read it a long time ago and although the details of the plotting now eludes me – I do recall the writing and the story blew me away. Thank you for sharing and reminding me all over again about this one:).

    Liked by 1 person

    • It calls for a re-read then! Now I’m reading The Farthest Shore, and amazed to see some common elements used in much later fantasy books. Like the disappearing of the magic, drug dens, etc. Fascinating how she wrote all those things before they became cliches!

      Like

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