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The Tombs of Atuan (1971)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Earthsea Cycle (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,811132874 (4.02)253
Arha's isolated existence as high priestess in the tombs of Atuan is jarred by a thief who seeks a special treasure.
  1. 40
    The Blue Hawk by Peter Dickinson (Aquila)
  2. 20
    The Unspoken Name by A K Larkwood (Aquila)
    Aquila: I feel like The Unspoken Name takes The Tombs of Atuan as a starting point, but it's just the beginning of a completely different story.
  3. 00
    Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff (spiphany)
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» See also 253 mentions

English (126)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (1)  Japanese (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (132)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
In the second installment in the Earthsea series, a girl is declared to be the reincarnated Priestess of a remote, timeless place and is taken from her family at an early age. She grows up learning its customs and believes herself to have great power, but has very limited experience of the actual world. She’s also got a rival in the form of the head Priestess of the State, which has its political power increasing.

What could have been a conventional coming-of-age tale in less skillful hands than Le Guin’s becomes a critique of cloistered, religious institutions that deny reality and don’t affirm life and joy, and I love the book for that. Much of the action takes place in subterranean tombs and an enormous labyrinth, all in darkness, which is telling. The young woman administers ancient rites with little meaning, and has no qualms about ceremonially executing enemies of the State who have been brought there. Her personal flaws and the flaws of the religious system she finds herself in are evident. There is real darkness here, and I don’t just mean the claustrophobic, blind environment Le Guin successfully creates. Just as in ‘A Wizard of Earthsea,’ the first book in the series, there are elements of identity and finding one’s self, but there is also profound disillusionment and loss of faith. It’s a mature, very intelligent work with a gravitas not often seen in young adult fiction.

Quote:
“The Earth is beautiful, and bright, and kindly, but that is not all. The Earth is also terrible, and dark, and cruel. The rabbit shrieks dying in the green meadows. The mountains clench their great hands full of hidden fire. There are sharks in the sea, and there is cruelty in men’s eyes. And where men worship these things and abase themselves before them, there evil breeds; there places are made in the world where darkness gathers, places given over wholly to the Ones whom we call Nameless, the ancient and holy Powers of the Earth before the Light, the powers of the dark, of ruin, of madness…”

Also, this one from the Afterword, Le Guin explaining the limitations of the main character, which unfortunately led to criticism. Personally I loved the balance in this book and for just how progressive it was, with its critique of religion and its protagonists, one of whom was female and the other of whom was black:

“In such a world, I could put a girl at the heart of my story, but I couldn’t give her a man’s freedom, or chances equal to a man’s chances. She couldn’t be a hero in the hero-tale sense. Not even in a fantasy? No. Because to me, fantasy isn’t wishful thinking, but a way of reflecting, and reflecting on reality. After all, even in a democracy, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, after forty years of feminist striving, the reality is that we live in a top-down power structure that was shaped by, and is still dominated by, men. Back in 1969, that reality seemed almost unshakeable.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Jan 1, 2022 |
This book is EVERYTHING. The tone is the epitome of dark perfection...it's literally mirrored in the pitch blackness, the weightiness, of the underground tombs, of the expectations on the young main character. Tenar/Arha's journey of self-discovery is poignant and real. Her internal journey as she becomes high priestess and thinks about what that means to her at the beginning, along with her physical journey away from the tombs at the end, of discovering the beauty of the world (including her first glimpse of the sea) is stunningly, gorgeously, expertly told, understated but so much more powerful for the lack of wordiness. I love this book even more the second time around, and it was a 5-star read for me the first time. ( )
  hissingpotatoes | Dec 28, 2021 |
This book couldn't be more different that book 1. In book 1 Ged travels all around Earthsea and lastly to the edge of the world. 95 % of the story in Atuan is told in a one temple, 75 % of that in the underground caverns and mazes. The heroine Tenar is taken as a child to the temple to become the temples high priestess, much like the Dalai Lama, the child is the reincarnated former high priestess. It's a story about choice or lack of, good vs evil. ( )
  kevn57 | Dec 8, 2021 |
Strikingly different from A Wizard of Earthsea, yet still enjoyable. I wasn't totally sure about what to expect with this book but I was delightfully surprised. While I felt the book suffered a bit from a rushed climax (I did end up reading most of it in an afternoon), Le Guin does a masterful job of storytelling, world building, and character developing. I almost wished I could read an encyclopedia of Earthsea and all its various and intriguing people but I'm happy to read the next book in the series in the meantime. ( )
  nosborm | Oct 10, 2021 |
A perfect book. Solid characters and vivid imagery of the darkness. Only issue was that the darkness turned out to be fully evil rather than a pathway for positive discovery/wisdom, which seemed to be the direction that Le Guin was taking the story. I have a thing for the dark though...! ( )
  DouglasDuff | Jun 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (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)
 

» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ursula K. Le Guinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Garraty, GailIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gilbert, Anne YvonneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guay, RebeccaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Inglis, RobNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paronis, MargotTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rikman, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the redhead from Telluride
First words
"Come home, Tenar!" (prologue)
One high horn shrilled and ceased.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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Book description
Le Guin, Ursula K.,1929-2018.
Οι τάφοι του Ατουάν / Ούρσουλα Λε Γκεν · μετάφραση Λίλη Ιωαννίδου. - Αθήνα : Όμμα, 1992. - 143σ. · 21.5x11.5εκ.
gre
Το δεύτερο βιβλίο του έπους της Γαιοθάλασσας.
Γλώσσα πρωτοτύπου: αγγλικά
Τίτλος πρωτοτύπου: The Tombs of Atuan, 1971
ISBN 960-7271-02-1, (Μαλακό εξώφυλλο) [Εξαντλημένο ]
813.6
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