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The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Tombs of Atuan (original 1971; edition 1975)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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5,80294733 (3.99)190
Title:The Tombs of Atuan
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Bantam Books (1975), Edition: paperback / softback, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Earthsea Cycle, Fantasy, Newbery, Newbery Challenge, Young Adult

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The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin (1971)


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English (89)  Spanish (2)  Swedish (1)  Japanese (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (94)
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
When I first tried reading this in my teens I could not manage to go beyond 50 pages because I wanted Ged (AKA Sparrowhawk), the hero of the previous volume [b:A Wizard of Earthsea|13642|A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)|Ursula K. Le Guin|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1303134026s/13642.jpg|113603], to show up and follow him on new adventures. What I found instead was a story of an entirely new protagonist, a young girl called Tenar who lives an oppressive life on the island of Atuan. Young fool that I was, I did not read on to the middle of the book where Ged does show up for more adventures, though this time as the secondary character. If I had waited I would realized this second volume of the Earthsea trilogy is even better than the first.

The pacing of The Tombs of Atuan is much more staid than [b:A Wizard of Earthsea|13642|A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)|Ursula K. Le Guin|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1303134026s/13642.jpg|113603], much of the first half of book is spent on fairly elaborate world building, developing the insular, claustrophobic setting of Atuan. LeGuin's skills with character development and the eloquence of her prose maintains my interest during the slower paced early part of the book. Tenar is a fine character, intelligent, resilient and resourceful. I love how her character dveelops as she gradually realizes the truth about the things she has dedicated her life to serve and worship. However, for me Ged is like the battery that powers the plot of the story. Le Guin really switches to second gear as soon as he suddenly pops up, the story gallops on from that point.

This book is much darker and more mature than [b:A Wizard of Earthsea|13642|A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)|Ursula K. Le Guin|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1303134026s/13642.jpg|113603], the scenes in the pitch dark of the Labyrinth is highly evocative and a little creepy. I was reading this on a sunny afternoon and I could still feel the creeping darkness, thank God for Ged's enfeebled mage light! Even though the "big bad" Nameless Ones never really come out of the shadow to show us some dripping fangs, cyclopean eyes, tentacles and such, Le Guin still manages to make their evil quite palpable.

OK, I don't want to write a long review for such a short book, so short that I am still hankering for some more Earthsea time, so now I am busy reading the third volume [b:The Farthest Shore|13667|The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle #3)|Ursula K. Le Guin|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1308953634s/13667.jpg|1322014].


Update: After finishing [b:The Farthest Shore|13667|The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle #3)|Ursula K. Le Guin|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1308953634s/13667.jpg|1322014] I believe this is my favorite book of the original trilogy. I just love the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere in this one. Looking at a few other reviews it seems to be a fan favorite also. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
Fascinating to have a new main character. Well told. I enjoyed the feeling of torn allegiance. I also had conflicting feeling at the end. Who was good? who was right? ( )
  yonitdm | Dec 10, 2015 |
Fascinating to have a new main character. Well told. I enjoyed the feeling of torn allegiance. I also had conflicting feeling at the end. Who was good? who was right? ( )
  yonitdm | Dec 10, 2015 |
There seem to me to have been some extraordinary storytelling choices made with this book. Sideline the hero of the previous volume, have him absent for nearly a third of the book, tell the entire story from the perspective of a young priestess raised to worship dark and terrible powers in a warlike expanding empire. It's as if the sequel to Star Wars had been told from the point of view of a trainee Sith and Luke Skywalker turned up just after having his hand chopped off, an invalid in an Imperial prison. And yet it is a beautiful book about learning that the things you have believed and taken for granted all your life are far narrower, more constrained and fundamentally strange, if not downright bad, than you could have imagined, and that your life in devotion to this thing, which you never had any choice about anyway, has been wasted. Haunting and written with an attention to craft and detail that makes the heart ache and the mind snap to attention, this is one of the great novels about breaking free. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
I finished The Tombs of Atuan yesterday, literally racing through the last few chapters. I'm glad I picked this book up again, as I'd started on it just after finishing The Wizard of Earthsea last year, and being disappointed with the change of protagonist, gave up on it, thinking I'd try it again some other time. This book tells the tale of a young girl, supposedly the reincarnation of the high priestess of the Tombs of Atuan, a large warren of underground passages and a labyrinth where the "dark ones" reside; dark forces which are considered as the gods of old, who eat the souls of those who venture in their territory. The story takes a while to pick up, but then when a wizard becomes trapped in the tombs, things become very interesting, with our young high priestess suddenly choosing to keep him alive instead of executing him, as is the custom, and in the process opening up to possibilities she had never considered as existing for her before. The edition I read from includes a very interesting afterword by Le Guin, who explains she had not at all planned the Earthsea cycle to extend beyond the first book originally, as well as her reasons for treating her female heroine the way she did, in this case allowing her to have real power only when joined by that of a male protagonist. ( )
  Smiler69 | Jul 15, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
Carol Reich (KLIATT Review, March 1995 (Vol. 29, No. 2))
Le Guin's 1970 fantasy for YAs (part two of the Earthsea Trilogy) has held up well over the decades and remains engaging. Narrative predominates throughout, but during the dialogue Inglis' voiced characters are never confusing to the listener. The three main female voices are acceptably done, the two main male voices are well done, the recording is clear, and Inglis is skilled enough to drop out of character for phrases such as "she said." Between the two of them, Le Guin and Inglis paint a vivid picture of the devious, threatening labyrinth that exists both underneath the temple and within the heart of the High Priestess whom the Wizard Ged rescues from service to the Nameless Ones. This book can stand alone. Category: Fiction Audiobooks. KLIATT Codes: JS*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1994, Recorded Books, 4 tapes, 5.5 hrs.
added by kthomp25 | editKLIATT, Carol Reich (Mar 1, 1995)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Garraty, GailIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0689845367, Mass Market Paperback)

Often compared to Tolkien's Middle-earth or Lewis's Narnia, Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea is a stunning fantasy world that grabs quickly at our hearts, pulling us deeply into its imaginary realms. Four books (A Wizard of Earthsea, The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, and Tehanu) tell the whole Earthsea cycle--a tale about a reckless, awkward boy named Sparrowhawk who becomes a wizard's apprentice after the wizard reveals Sparrowhawk's true name. The boy comes to realize that his fate may be far more important than he ever dreamed possible. Le Guin challenges her readers to think about the power of language, how in the act of naming the world around us we actually create that world. Teens, especially, will be inspired by the way Le Guin allows her characters to evolve and grow into their own powers.

In this second book of Le Guin's Earthsea series, readers will meet Tenar, a priestess to the "Nameless Ones" who guard the catacombs of the Tombs of Atuan. Only Tenar knows the passageways of this dark labyrinth, and only she can lead the young wizard Sparrowhawk, who stumbles into its maze, to the greatest treasure of all. Will she?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:42 -0400)

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Arha's isolated existence as high priestess in the tombs of Atuan is jarred by a thief who seeks a special treasure.

(summary from another edition)

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