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Book Review: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin



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The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin - Book Review

The Tombs of Atuan is the second book in LeGuin’s Earthsea series of books. At less than 150 pages in length it is a small yet magical book that is suitable for children and adults. This is a perfect book for bedtime stories or if you want something light that won’t take a year to finish.

Available at Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 2)

The story of this book is pretty straight forward and about a young girl named Tenar who is taken away from her family at the age of five. She has been determined to be a reincarnated priestess and is brought to the tombs of Atuan to fulfill her role as she has supposedly done for a thousand years.

One very remarkable thing about this story is the immense and complex labyrinth that lies under the temple of Atuan. This labyrinth is the central part of the story and holds many secrets and many treasures. Tenar spends much of her time wandering the dark corridors of this labyrinth and as a reader you will find yourself flipping to the map of the labyrinth at the front of the book. You will be drawn into the labyrinth and you will refer to the map often to track Tenar’s progress as she explores the treasure room, the painted room, the room of bones, and much more.

This story starts out gentle and slow and it takes a little time to really get the feel for the main character and for what is happening but after thirty or forty pages you are going to come to the realization that you have come under the influence of quite a remarkable spell of writing that has been cast upon you. This book, and this story is just remarkable in its beauty. If you love fantasy and are looking for something special to read then I recommend this book highly.

About the World of EarthSea

The story takes place on one small island in a large world called the Archipelago of Earthsea. It is a vast array of islands that are populated with many different people and cultures. Some of the islands even have dragons.

Does the story stand alone?

Being the second book in a series of books the question comes up as to whether or not the book can be read alone without reading the other books and the answer to that question is yes. It can be thoroughly enjoyed as a sole reading adventure. Everything in the story ties up very neatly by the last page. But a character in the first novel of the series (A Wizard of Earthsea) plays a central role in this second novel. I do highly recommend you read the Wizard of Earthsea before you read this novel.

The books have been reprinted many times and you can purchase the first three books as a complete set. And there are currently six books in the Earthsea cycle. The Other Wind is the sixth book and it was published in 2003. You will be drawn into the world of the archipelago and Earth Sea because things happen in this book that have an effect o the rest of the world and you are going to want to explore more of the world that LeGuin has masterfully crafted.

Theme and the Story within the Story

The book can be characterized as a young girls coming of age story but it is much more than that. It probes into the questions of reincarnation, balance and harmony in the world, and through the metaphor of the labyrinth it peeks into the mystery of everything. All of this is packed into 150 pages? Yes, and more. The book itself is a perfect example of a central theme of Earthsea – words and names are important. More words don’t mean much. What is really important is the right words, and the right names of things. And LeGuin parallels this perfectly in this novel. It does in 150 pages what is often attempted in 800 pages.

The Books in the Series

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