“The Tombs of Atuan” by Ursula Le Guin

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

Though I enjoyed the first book of the Earthsea Cycle, A Wizard of Earthsea, I did not enjoy the second as much.

Quick summary:

In The Tombs of Atuan, we are introduced to Tenar, the priestess of the Nameless Ones, gods without names. She was taken from her family at the age of six to become the new priestess since the old one had died. Brought up in a dry landscape void of any other humans except the women who serve the temples of the gods and the soldiers who guard the outskirts, Tenar knows nothing of the outside world except wisps of memory from her childhood. Her hopes and dreams are limited to the walls of the temple. It’s not until Ged Sparrowhawk appears in the Tombs, searching for the other half of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, that she becomes curious and begin to defy the rules given to her to follow.

My reaction:

The Tombs of Atuan is a good story but while reading, I kept wondering what would happen in the next book. It’s probably because there’s not much action in this installment that I found it hard to commit my attention to it, however, it was not a boring read. I quite like the story of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, which besides Ged’s appearance is the only thing that connects this installment to book one.

Still, I like that the protagonist is female and from the Kargish islands, a place that does not hold magic in high regard. This perspective gives us a different view on the world and structure of Earthsea. Also, I loved that in order for Tenar to escape her servitude, she must choose to be free. Though Ged can take Tenar away from the Tombs, in order to truly escape the powers of the Nameless Ones, she must choose to go.

My appreciation for the story grew when I read the afterword (included in the September 11, 2012 edition). In it, Le Guin discusses her reasons for writing the story and why she chose to write from Tenar’s point-of-view. It’s amazing the thoughts given to the craft of this story.

The Farthest Shore (book 3) ->

<- A Wizard of Earthsea (book 1)

Quotes from the book:

“…it is no use trying to open a door until you know how the door is opened.”

“She wept in pain because she was free…Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake…It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one.”