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Earthsea Cycle #2

The Tombs of Atuan

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Librarian's Note: For an alternate cover edition of the same ISBN, click here.

When young Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, everything is taken away - home, family, possessions, even her name. For she is now Arha, the Eaten One, guardian of the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

While she is learning her way through the dark labyrinth, a young wizard, Ged, comes to steal the Tombs' greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic, and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain.

180 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1970

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About the author

Ursula K. Le Guin

790 books23.3k followers
Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Oregon.

She was known for her treatment of gender (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Matter of Seggri), political systems (The Telling, The Dispossessed) and difference/otherness in any other form. Her interest in non-Western philosophies was reflected in works such as "Solitude" and The Telling but even more interesting are her imagined societies, often mixing traits extracted from her profound knowledge of anthropology acquired from growing up with her father, the famous anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber. The Hainish Cycle reflects the anthropologist's experience of immersing themselves in new strange cultures since most of their main characters and narrators (Le Guin favoured the first-person narration) are envoys from a humanitarian organization, the Ekumen, sent to investigate or ally themselves with the people of a different world and learn their ways.

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Profile Image for Brad.
Author 2 books1,685 followers
March 9, 2012
Half way through reading The Tombs of Atuan, I was sitting downstairs playing my xBox late at night when I heard voices drifting down from upstairs. I sat and listened to the door muffled murmurs of Miloš & Brontë, but I couldn't make out what they were saying.

Usually I'd just call up to them and tell them it was time to shoosh and go to sleep, but I was curious to figure out what they were talking about. Even obscured I could tell it wasn't the usual joke fest or scary story, there was something different about this talk.

What was different, it turned out, was that Miloš was Ged and Brontë was Tenar, and they were in the dark room of the Great Treasure, playing the Tombs of Atuan. They're still seven, only just, and there they were, late in the night, in their bunkbeds, improvising a discussion between the Eaten One and Sparrowhawk. I decided to let them play, so I left them undisturbed and went back to my game.

A few days later, I was working in my office and I heard Miloš outside my door talking to Vetch from A Wizard of Earthsea. He was playing Ged again.

Weird as this may sound, it makes me incredibly proud of them. There is no big Hollywood movie with toys and a marketing campaign to nudge my kids in this direction. There is no cultural weight to lead them into playing at Ged and Tenar. There is only the words of one of our greatest authors, Ursula K. Le Guin and the voice I added to the books. That's it, but it was enough. Great literature has that power.

Please read this to your kids whomever you may be. It will be with them always.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
December 7, 2021
The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Cycle, #2), Ursula K. Le Guin

The Tombs of Atuan is a fantasy novel by the American author Ursula K. Le Guin, first published in the Winter 1970 issue of Worlds of Fantasy, and published as a book by Atheneum Books in 1971.

It is the second book in the Earthsea series after A Wizard of Earthsea (1969).

The Tombs of Atuan follows the story of Tenar, a young girl born in the Kargish empire, who is taken while still a child to be the high priestess to the "Nameless Ones" at the Tombs of Atuan.

Her existence at the Tombs is a lonely one, deepened by the isolation of being the highest ranking priestess.

Her world is disrupted by the arrival of Ged, the protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea, who seeks to steal the half of a talisman buried in the treasury of the Tombs.

Tenar traps him in the labyrinth under the Tombs, but then rebels against her teaching and keeps him alive. Through him she learns more of the outside world, and begins to question her faith in the Nameless Ones and her place at the Tombs.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز ششم ماه ژانویه سال2008میلادی

عنوان: دریای زمین کتاب دوم - گورهای آتوان؛ نویسنده: ارسولا کی لوژوان (لگوین)؛ مترجم: پیمان اسماعیلیان خامنه؛ ویراستار نیلوفر خان محمدی؛ تهران، قدیانی، سال1386، در263ص، جلد دوم از مجموعه شش کتاب در شش جلد؛ شابک دوره9789645365835؛ شابک کتاب دوم9789645362780؛ موضوع داستانهای خیال انگیز از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده20م

گورهای آتوان کتابی ست بنوشته ی «اورسولا لو گویین» در ژانر فانتزی، که دومین کتاب از سری «دریای زمین» است، و نخستین بار در شمارهٔ سال1970میلادی جهان فانتزی به چاپ رسید، و سپس در سال1971میلادی بصورت کتاب منتشر شد

این کتاب، داستان جادوگری با نام «گِد» را بیان می‌کند، که به گورهای «آتوان» می‌رود، تا حلقه ی صلح «اررت-آکبه» را، از راهبه های آتوان بدزدد، تا دوباره به جزایر میانی بازگرداند؛ داستان از زبان «آرها» بازگو می‌شود (نام حقیقی او تِنار است) که دختری نوجوان است، و مقام راهبه ی نخست گورهای آتوان را دارد، ولی قدرت حقیقی از آن دو راهبه ی دیگر با نام‌های: کاسیل و تار است؛

در ابتدای کتاب دربارهٔ کودکی «آرها»، و انتخاب او، به عنوان راهبه ی اول می‌خوانیم، و اینکه او، چگونه به «گورهای آتوان»، که مجموعه‌ ای عظیم از شهرهای زیرزمینی، و راهروهای باریک، و بدون نور، در زیر بیابانی خشک است، خو می‌گیرد؛ او کم‌ کم به راه‌های مخفی در دل «گورهای آتوان» آشنا می‌شود، و روزها و شب‌های تنهایی‌اش را، به گشت‌ و گذار، در این شهر زیرزمینی می‌گذراند؛ او که تا آن زمان هیچ مردی را ندیده‌ است، در یکی از شب‌ها، متوجه حضور مردی، در یکی از تالارهای زیرزمینی می‌شود؛ با آشنایی از تمام راه‌های خروج، او را در آنجا گرفتار می‌کند، و منتظر مرگش می‌شود؛ او که فهمیده که آن مرد، یک جادوگر است، با یاری خدمتکارش، «مانان»، به او غذا و آب می‌رساند، و او را زنده، اما زندانی نگاه می‌دارد، تا درباره ی جادوگران، و زندگی مردمان «جزایر میانی» اطلاعاتی بدست آورد

نقل نمونه از متن: (همه چیزش را از او ستاندند، خانه اش، خانواده اش، تمام دارائی اش، در عوض نامی به او دادند: «آرها - خورده شده»؛ زندگیش را به عنوان راهبه ی یکم، برای قدرتهایی «بی نام و باستانی» در زمین وقف، و او را در محل گورستان، در میانه ی بیابان «آتوان» جا میدهند.)؛ پایان نقل؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 18/03/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 15/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.3k followers
November 26, 2017
The first few chapters of this were a real chore. They were confusing and dull. However, out of the darkness of those chapters, and out of the depths of the labyrinth, came a story of redemption, human suffering and a will, a will to overcome great evil when succumbing to the darkness would have been a much easier path to walk.

“You must make a choice. Either you must leave me, lock the door, go up to your alters and give me to your masters; then go to the Princess Kossil and make your peace with her-and that is the end of the story- or, you must unlock the door, and go out of it, with me. Leave the tombs, leave Atuan, and come with me oversea. And that is the beginning of the story.


It was a shame about the beginning, but the rest of the novel more than made up for it. That quote gave me tingles when I read it. Artha is a young priestess of the undying power that is shadow. She reluctantly carries out her duties of ritualistic dance, prayer and the murder of anyone who enters the darkness of the Labyrinth. She doesn’t directly kill the unfortunate wonderers, but she leaves them die of exposure nonetheless when she could easily save them. There’s no life in the darkness and certainly nothing to sustain it. So you’re as good as dead if you enter, and even deader if a priestess imprisons you in a part of the catacombs.

It’s all doom and gloom until a familiar face turns Artha’s life around. It’s odd to talk about such strong character development in a novel this short, but Artha completely changes. She gradually sees the evil of her situation, and that none of it is of her doing. She sees that she is as much a victim as any of the wonderers. The familiar face she encounters is a powerful namer, he is a wizard of both name and reputation, and he knows how to break the binding darkness; he knows how to save the young girl: he knows to remind her of her own name, her true name, and exactly who she is in the process.

Fast and eloquent writing:

“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.”

Le Guin doesn’t piss about. She has a story and she tells it. Her narration is minimalistic and basic, but it carries with it such depth and feeling. She can achieve a lot in just a few words; the whole mood of the story shifts in just a few chapters; yet, it’s appropriately done. I’m normally an advocate of drawn out plot and lengthy characterisation (points lovingly at my Robin Hobb bookshelf) but Le Guin does what she does just as well. It’s odd. Le Guin can do what other novelists do in six times the word count. Her writing is fast, engaging and excellent. This is the perfect series for those that want a fantasy hit, but don’t want to be dragged down with pages, and pages, of lengthy storytelling.

I also liked the shift of narrators; it added a little more flavour the Earthsea world. I think it would have been predictable, and perhaps easy, had Ged been the narrator at the start. By shifting the story around I got to see the world from the perspective of a much darker character. I liked the way this was done even if it was a little bewildering at the start.

Earthsea Cycle
1. A Wizard of Earthsea- Four worthy stars
2. The Tombs of Atuan- A redeeming four stars
3. The Farthest Shore- A strong four stars

Profile Image for Tim.
471 reviews595 followers
February 20, 2021
2/19/21 - I'm editing my review. It may seem odd to edit a review for a book I read over two years ago without a reread, but I've noticed whenever I talk fantasy with my friends, I use this book as an example of perfect world building. It's one of those rare novels that the more I think about it the more perfect it becomes. I have no strong desire to revisit the first or third book, but this one may actually go on my favorites shelf.

If you read my review of the previous novel, A Wizard of Earthsea, you will know I was not enamored with it. You will note that I did not say it was bad, far from it. I respected the hell out of that book for many of the things it did, but I did not personally care much for it. I went ahead and read the second book because I felt like, to a certain extent, I must be missing something. I think it is no exaggeration to say that Earthsea is one of the most loved Fantasy series, having clearly inspired many works and having endured strong since the late 60s. What was it that captured imaginations but did no more than gently tap mine? Was it the younger reader aspect? Was this a series that one needed to read at a young age and then let nostalgia keep fresh?

It is at times like this that I actually hate that our star rating is listed before the review, as anyone with a casual glance can say, “Yes Tim, enough with the dramatics, we can see the four (now FIVE) stars. Tell us why you liked this one better.” *Sigh* Star ratings just have no flare for the dramatic.

Yes, I liked this one better. A lot better. Where I respected the first book, I couldn’t say that I found it enjoyable. This one I can say both. This one is something of a masterpiece in my eyes. This one corrects literally every issue I had with the last. Here we get to know our characters more personally; we are let into their lives rather than kept at a distance. There is far more development than “I was an arrogant kid and then grew up” (yes, I know that’s a slight exaggeration… but not much of one). Here I actually really cared about what was going on.

The book is short, at only 212 pages in my edition. This works both in its favor and against it. On one hand, the story, if we really get down to it, could be summed up in a few sentences. Really, not much goes on from a plot assessment. In fact, if we only focus on plot, the book could have ended something like 20 pages earlier from a traditional narrative perspective. I will even confess that as I read the last two chapters, I had a metaphoric raised eyebrow wondering why the hell we were getting essentially an extended epilogue. Was this really needed?

Oh, my… yes, yes it was. The first book was a hero’s journey. A lesson learned, darkness vanquished, let’s go home triumphant. This one is almost entirely an internal struggle with a fantasy story happening around it. This is the story of someone who has literally lost everything, including her name, and seeing if she’s willing to lose what little security she has for, not the guarantee, but the mere possibility of something better. This is an emotional story, and one presented in a “young adult” friendly fashion, while letting those of us who are older see the darker side, the story told from the shadows and between the lines. The ending section, in my opinion, is what heightens the entire story aspect and raises it to that minor masterpiece status.

Now, ignoring this, I would still say I liked this book better, even if it didn’t have the emotional impact (though I assure you, I’m so very glad it did). Why? World building. The world of the previous novel was interesting, but with the second book Le Guin cemented herself as one of the best in terms of world building. She expands upon concepts mentioned in the previous book and plays with them in interesting ways. This one takes place on a different island, in a different country and as such we see a completely different perspective. We see the world through other eyes with a vastly altered view from the previous book. The world is built up in so many interesting, but small ways, such as the rituals in the temple performed, but never fully explained, as much of the reasons for them have been lost to time. I complained in my last review that the book seemed almost like a textbook, too distanced, now I almost feel like I would happily read a full history of the world presented here.

And that my friends, is the highest compliment I can give a fantasy novel in terms of world building.

5/5 stars and my highest possible recommendation.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,029 followers
March 10, 2023
The Tombs of Atuan by the American author Ursula K. Le Guin, was originally published in 1971. It is the second book in her “Earthsea” series of fantasy books, which began with “A Wizard of Earthsea” in 1969. Yet The Tombs of Atuan has never achieved the same popularity as its predecessor, and is often thought a lesser novel. I read each of“The Earthsea Trilogy” in turn, shortly after their first publication, but could remember little about The Tombs of Atuan now. How glad I am that I have come to read it again, after so many decades. It is an extraordinary work; a subtle and finely nuanced masterpiece, packed with atmosphere and symbolism.

“In the great Treasury of the Tombs of Atuan, time did not pass. No light; no life; no least stir of spider in the dust or worm in the cold earth. Rock, and dark, and time not passing.”

The Tombs of Atuan feels like a completion of the first book, although there were to be four more in total; three after the initial trilogy. The first two feel like two halves of the same tale, complementing, contrasting; fitting snugly together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. In the first book we viewed Ged objectively from the outside, but in The Tombs of Atuan we are very aware of the protagonist Tenar’s inner feelings and thoughts; thus outside and inside viewpoints form a complete picture.

The equilibrium of Earthsea itself:

“The world is in balance … To light a candle is to cast a shadow.”

is exemplified by these two novels; they are perfectly balanced. Yin and yang. Both parts are necessary.

“A Wizard of Earthsea” is essentially a bildungsroman, about a young boy, Ged, who has magic powers. We follow his voyages all over the archipelago of Earthsea, and the distant lands, learning all about the many islands, cultures, languages and races. And we see Ged’s struggles both with himself, and with the forces of magic, both for good and for evil. The Tombs of Atuan is also a coming of age story, but in contrast, is set almost wholly in a very small area of one city, in one of the outlying islands in the Kargish empire. In addition, the protagonist is not a young boy with red-brown skin, open to ideas and keen to learn all he can, but a young girl with white skin, severely restricted in her thinking, and determined to follow a hard and cruel tradition in a closed religious sect. Both are proud and arrogant in their youth, though feeling insecure in their roles, but their experiences — their “worlds” — are far apart.

The Tombs of Atuan follows the story of Tenar, who was born on the Kargish island of Atuan. Because she had been born on the day that the high priestess of the Tombs of Atuan had died, the other priestesses believe Tenar to be her latest incarnation. They watch Tenar until she reaches the age of five, when she is taken from her family, to be trained as the high priestess to the “Nameless Ones”, unseen formless dark powers, at the tombs on the island.

“[the throne] was empty. Nothing sat in it but shadows”

The name “Tenar” is taken from her in a ceremony involving a symbolic sacrifice, and she is now called simply “Arha”, meaning “the one who has been devoured”, or the “Eaten One”. Arha is now consecrated to the service of the Nameless Ones and receives instruction in how to dedicate her life to them, through intricate ceremonies and duties, which she increasingly believes she is remembering from her previous many incarnations:

“All human beings were forever reborn, but only she, Arha, was reborn forever as herself.”

Because she is so young, Arha needs caring for, and a eunuch called Manan has been chosen to nurture her. The two develop an affectionate bond; nevertheless, Arha’s childhood is very lonely, as she lives apart from all the others. Her only friend is Penthe, a priestess of her own age. Arha receives instruction at the hands of Thar and Kossil, the priestesses of the two other major deities, who outwardly treat her with great respect, because of her position. Arha questions nothing, although the regime is strict, and the environment sterile and static, allowing for no growth. She tries to learn and remember her unique role as the highest ranking priestess.

Thar tells Arha of the underground passages and rooms; the labyrinth beneath the Tombs, teaching her how to find her way around them. Arha spends much of her life underground in the maze of catacombs, groping to find the way, which in the most part is a secret known only to herself; memorising the routes and passages where all light is forbidden, even to her.

“Touch was one’s whole guidance; one could not see the way but held it in one’s hands”

​“Here there was no wind, no season; it was close, it was still, it was safe.”

Thar tells Arha of reminding her that there are unbelievers who can work magic:

“the Wizards of the West can raise and still the winds, and make them blow whither they will…it is said they can make light at will, and darkness; and change rock to diamonds; and lead to gold…at least in seeming”

When she becomes fourteen, Arha takes on the full responsibilities of her position, as the highest ranked priestess in the Tombs. Yet for all her apparent power, her life is stifled by meaningless rituals, and by the pettiness of older, ambitious priestesses, who are more bitter and resentful of their very limited lives, and her privileged status. One in particular, in reality “holds nothing sacred but power”.

Arha has now become inured to the casual cruelty of the blood sacrifices, and regards it as her duty to work out the most cruel and appropriate punishments for transgressors. Nobles who defy the GodKing, are sentenced to a death which is of as much political as religious value, and are sent to the Place of the Tombs to be human sacrifices.

There is no magic in the tombs of Atuan, merely a series of closely guarded rituals. The community is isolated from the rest of Earthsea, viewing any mention of magic as blasphemy, and the Hardic folk as evil sorcerers. Anyone from the inner lands in turn, views Kargish peoples as barbarians. Not only do those in the Kargad lands have a distinct culture, and language, but they do not read or use written language, considering this to be evil.

Thus the darkness of the tombs of Atuan covers far more than a simple lack of light. It is a closed, claustrophobic, deeply oppressed existence, with a rigid class system and cruel savage religion. Is is a small part of a wider society, the Kargad empire, which is depicted as militant, and patriarchal. This society neither believes in the equilibrium, which the rest of Earthsea believes in, nor has any belief in magic. It is a theocracy, with a monarch, the GodKing, who claims to represent the power of the “Nameless Ones”:

“the powers of the dark, of ruin, of madness”.

We see that Tenar, as the high priestess, rules over an order of lesser priestesses who do her bidding, but all are in service to the Nameless Ones and their GodKing. It is interesting that as early as 1971, a female author noted for Science Fiction and Fantasy, (which is unusual in itself), chose to portray a female protagonist, with a largely female set of characters. Both are against type, and much has been made of this, just as “A Wizard of Earthsea” is sometimes criticised for having few female characters. Interesting, yes, but perhaps only as a statistic.

Speaking for myself, I am always relieved when the writing is gender-free, as invariably I know that if I can tell that the author is female, and “has a female voice” or male, and “sees things from a man’s point of view”, it is a book I will not enjoy. I usually discover either that it has an agenda, or that it is fitting into a jaded genre. In a similar way, my personal feeling is that both these main characters Ged, and Tenar, are fairly interchangeable. Their gender is in no way what the novels are about.

The aspects of the characters which interest us are are their capacity for growth, and self-knowledge; their search for identity, how they move on from their individual difficulties — each is immensely proud initially — about the human qualities they learn to value, and about their tremendous struggles with good and evil.

Just less than half way through the book, Arha has an encounter which will challenge her entire belief system, and her place in the world of Earthsea. The labyrinth under the Tombs is depicted as “the very heart of darkness” a place where light is forbidden. At the same time, it is decreed ”no man can enter the Dark Places of the Tombs”. Arha witnesses both sacrilege and defilement,

… the great vaulted cavern beneath the Tombstones, not hollowed by man’s hand but by the powers of the Earth. It was jewelled with crystals and ornamented with pinnacles and filigree of white limestone where the waters under earth had worked, aeons since: immense, with glittering roof and walls, sparkling, delicate, intricate, a palace of diamonds, a house of amethyst and crystal from which the ancient darkness had been driven out by glory.”

Arha knows that all she is doing in forbidden, and fears for her life:

“As she stumbled forward she cried out in her mind, which was as dark, as shaken as the subterranean vault, “Forgive me. O my Masters, O unnamed ones, most ancient ones, forgive me, forgive me!”
There was no answer. There had never been an answer.“

She is advised by Manan not to pursue this any longer, for her own safety.

We see a more subtle, internal struggle with The Tombs of Atuan’s protagonist than in “A Wizard of Earthsea”. Tenar is a more revolutionary character than Ged, as she rebels and struggles against the confines of her social role. Yet they both share elements of the story of an heroic quest, and work against type, exploring issues of race, political systems, anthropology and culture, and one having a female main character. From the author’s own remarks, this subversion of some of the tropes common to the genre of fantasy at the time, was quite deliberate. Her exploration of religious themes, ethical questions and gender issues within the framework of The Tombs of Atuan, is quite remarkable.

It is perhaps inevitable that Tenar will want to it is now clear to Tenar that there is a very real power for evil.

“She did feel it. A dark hand had let go its lifelong hold upon her heart. But she did not feel joy, as she had in the mountains. She put her head down in her arms and cried, and her cheeks were salt and wet. She cried for the waste of her years in bondage to a useless evil. She wept in pain, because she was free …”

Tenar now feels bereft, and cannot see forward, keenly feeling the loss of her identity. It is a difficult task to abandon everything one has ever known, to rebel against the very society that nurtured her. But she now saw it as a stifling dogma, which had conditioned her beliefs and understanding of the world.

Both these first Earthsea novels are quite short, but rich in imagery and ideas. Just as in “A Wizard of Earthsea”, the writing is spare, with no excess, but the language is lyrical, so we find beautiful evocative passages in The Tombs of Atuan too. The description of the labyrinths, and of the oppressive regime, are very claustrophobic, and the later passages feel wonderfully fresh and open in contrast. This part was apparently was inspired by the Oregon deserts in her creation of Atuan, the author saying it was a similarly harsh and hauntingly beautiful landscape:

“It was evening. The sun was down behind the mountains that loomed close and high to westward, but its afterglow filled all earth and sky: a vast, clear, wintry sky, a vast, barren, golden land of mountains and wide valleys. The wind was down. It was cold, and absolutely silent. Nothing moved. The leaves of the sagebrushes nearby were dry and grey, the stalks of tiny dried-up desert herbs prickled her hand. The huge silent glory of light burned on every twig and withered leaf and stem, on the hills, in the air.”

It is a beautifully balanced book; a book to make us feel, and to make us think.

“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.”

In both novels the protagonists feel an internal conflict, and learn to discover new ways of thinking and being. Their heroic quests are also both journeys of maturation, and in The Tombs of Atuan Tenar has profound regrets, and begins to understand that genuine freedom will be difficult, with many burdens and responsibilities. She has had power in her own sphere from the age of six; has known her gods, and their holy places for a very long time. Tenar has taken charge of her own destiny as it was laid down, from very early in the story. Because of this, the outcome of the story feels far more like a conscious decision, rather than something that simply happens to her. She shows great courage.

The novel has a powerful sense of place, set in claustrophobic catacombs, and as we read we see that the darkness of the labyrinth is also a metaphor for ignorance, fear, and sterility. Yet although there seems to have been so much waste, cruelty and oppression, in the end there is much hope of enlightenment:

“Living, being in the world, was a much greater and stranger thing than she had ever dreamed.”

“What she had begun to learn was the weight of liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveller may never reach the end of it.”
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews766 followers
July 14, 2017
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 A Wizard of Earthsea, 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 have realized this second volume of the Earthsea trilogy is even better than the first.

Ged and Tenar. Art by Leo and Diane Dillon

The pacing of The Tombs of Atuan is much more staid than A Wizard of Earthsea, much of the first half of book is spent on fairly elaborate world building, developing the insular, claustrophobic setting of Atuan. LeGuin's skill 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 develops 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 A Wizard of Earthsea, 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 The Farthest Shore.

Update: After finishing The Farthest Shore 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.

Interesting French cover.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,671 followers
April 10, 2019
"Alone, no one wins freedom."
- The Tombs of Atuan


I adore Le Guin's voice and her soul. I hate fantasy. Or, rather, I have told that to SO many people I believe it is true. But, I make exceptions. Le Guin could have writen self-help and business books and I'd gladly read them. She was a feminist, but unafraid to write a book both with a female lead, and a female lead who is helped by a man/wizard. She is interested in power, in evil, in humanity, in big questions and nuanced answers. Her prose is very good, but her characters are amazing. She recognized, I believe, that the secret to writing about strength is to write about weakness. Just like the secret to writing about light is to write about darkness. This isn't one of her GREAT novels, but I might even change my mind about that, if the ideas in this book are still pounding around in the labrynths of my brain in a couple weeks. I might need to give this book 5-stars just to escape it.

* Monuments by Kappifern
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,911 followers
August 5, 2017
This is a very fine fantasy. I say fine because it evokes many great labyrinthian images, old, old traditions of sacrifice to the Dark Old Ones, and eventually, freedom from the same.

There's a lot of beauty here, and while I didn't love it on quite the same scale as Ged's original journey in the first book, it's mainly because I liked the core theme better.

Other readers will absolutely take out of this book different layers. I can say that confidently because there are some really beautiful and clear layers interwoven here.

The past and the evil in the past can be broken and escaped. That which was broken can be renewed.

And what's more, so much of it has to do with our own perceptions! Of course, isn't it always? :)

Our MC is the high priestess of an ancient cult and Ged does show up halfway. It's really quite amusing to see just how easily she toys with the poor "greatest wizard", but I admit to liking this book a lot more after that point.

It's really something else to see how clear and easy this is to read compared to a lot of modern fantasy and it's even more interesting because it stands up to the test of time. Le Guin definitely has great skill. :)
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,205 reviews145 followers
February 11, 2023
“When Tenar is chosen as high priestess … everything is taken from her.”

Ms LeGuin might think my interpretation of THE TOMBS OF ATUAN, the second entry in her now long-running EARTHSEA fantasy series, to be far wide of her intended mark. And other readers may well have different opinions and disagree with me completely. Be that as it may, I saw THE TOMBS OF ATUAN as a scathing allegorical critique of the evils of organized religion; the self-perpetuating nature of the patriarchy that created the religion (indeed, ANY religion) in the first place; the misogyny that is the fall-out of virtually every religion that exists (or has ever been created); and the resulting mental enslavement and denigration of self-esteem in adulthood that is created by the doctrine with which a child is brain-washed from the earliest moments of childhood!

Whether it was by design or merely by happenstance, I found the entire first half of the novel plodding and repetitious and I’ll admit that I came very close to setting the book aside. But having finished the book, I now read that first half as a metaphor for a sacred scripture laying the almost universally tedious groundwork for an organized religion’s theology (mythology?) and outlining its doctrines. It was a personal revelation to conclude that this foundation was necessary to the strength of the entire novel whose beauty only began to peek through the dark clouds hiding it with the arrival of Ged Sparrowhawk. Consistent with my views on the novel as a whole, I saw Sparrowhawk’s arrival as a metaphorical stand-in for whatever set of life circumstances might give rise to that tiny spark of realization, courage, wisdom and strength to question the beliefs that have been beaten into you since infancy. Tenar ultimately comes to the understanding that she has self-worth; that the gods to which she had dedicated her life offered her nothing and took everything; that they were not actually gods at all; and that, whatever they actually were, intended that Tenar dedicate her life to serving their needs.

For those lovers of plot-driven sword and sorcery medieval fantasy, I’d caution you that I don’t think THE TOMBS OF ATUAN will be your cup of tea. For those fantasy readers that are willing to put in more thought and draw some conclusions about what they’ve read, then I’ll most assuredly recommend the EARTHSEA series to you. Whether your thoughts mirror mine will remain to be seen.

Definitely recommended.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Aydan Aliyeva.
53 reviews76 followers
February 22, 2022
This is the second book in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series and once again here I am regretting to read it this much late in my late twenties. I should have done it ten years earlier, however better late than never. I like how her stories mingle facts with fiction or let's say intellect with imagination. She chooses deep topics, but talks about in very simple and gentle ways. And I guess, unlike the first one, this book is more focused on female transformation. Now it is not much about Ged, but Tenar (Arha). So it seems that each book in the series has a different central protagonist which introduces many new perspectives and u don't just enjoy some magical fantasy world glam, but helps the reader to learn and understand the one you already live in. She talks about good and bad along with all its illusion, dark and light with all its shades, adventure and mundane with all its risks, total freedom and all kinds of "slavery" with all its burden....and it is really nice to see how she underlines the importance of couple work. It is the kind of feminism I may appreciate. I mean both women and men need each other. They complete and yet enrich each other in their most unique and different ways. There is so much to analyze and write, but I don't want to do it in the "so much spoiler" level. Read and enjoy it!
Profile Image for Lena.
173 reviews68 followers
October 4, 2021
As the previous book, there is a classic fantasy without classical fantasy tropes. Characters must defeat the darkness, but its their own inner demons and fears not some 'Dark Lord'. Nice writing style and world-building, intriguing plot and interesting characters, but just not my type of read.
Profile Image for Martyn Stanley.
Author 14 books186 followers
October 4, 2017
When I reviewed 'The Wizard of Earthsea' I gave it four out out of five:-


Having read 'Tombs of Atuan' I feel like I was overgenerous. Maybe WoE was a 3.5 rounded up?

The bottom line is, I REALLY enjoyed 'Tombs of Atuan'. When I got to the point where Ged entered the story, I could hardly put it down. It's a gripping book, set in a grim and fascinating setting. It reeks of the mystery of ancient places. The whole book takes place in the sort of setting most books brush past, hinting that the ruins are ancient and of another time and telling you nothing more.

Surprisingly, Ged was NOT the protagonist here. It never really switched to Ged's point of view either. This tale is told from the perspective of a young girl called Tenar, who becomes 'Arha' (The Swallowed One) when the old Priestess dies, because she's born on the night the old one died, she is assumed to be the reincarnation.

This situation puts Arha into a unique dichotomy. She essentially grows up in a world where she has enviable privilege, but no freedom. She's well looked after, she's important, but she can never leave the Tombs or forego the rituals demanded of her by the ancient dark that dwells there. She is essentially a well cared for slave. For the most part Arha seems to accept her fate. I can understand why too. I think it's realistic. She leads such a sheltered existence that considering what the world beyond the Tombs may be like never really occurs to her until she meets Ged. In some respects her moral anguish over the fate of the men she left in the chained room reminds a little of my own character Vexis Zaelwarsh, Low Priestess of Avanti who features in Rise of the Archmage. I actually think this book has a very similar theme to Vexis's story in Deathsworn Arc. The exploration of faith and fear... It almost reads like a strange version of Stockholm syndrome. When offered freedom, I don't feel Arha grabs it without fear. This is probably realistic. Most of us DO have a fear of the unknown. A new job, relationship or moving to a new town always brings anxiety, even if it's something we're really excited about. Arha ends up in a position where she's forced to choose between a new life, unknown - or the existence she's lived for her whole life. The way Le Guin portrays it, Ged's kindness and compassion, always offering her the choice of sacrificing him or enslaving him to return to her life as Low Priestess - that seals the deal. The villain in this number, Kossil seems to envy Arha, but I got the impression Kossil had chosen a life serving the Tombs, whereas the life was chosen FOR Arha / Tenar without her having a say in it. This is a crucial difference and though subtle, it gives the whole book context. This book is about the importance of freedom, over privilege.

I particularly liked the rich and emotional exploration of Arha's early life in the Temple. It seemed realistic and intimate. I liked the claustrophobia and darkness of the tombs where no light is ever permitted and explorers have to feel their way in the darkness. I DO think Kossil's decision to light up the Tombs later in the book in order validate Arha's claims really pushed Arha's loyalty towards Ged. For me, it showed a lack of respect for the gods Arha served and a prioritization of control or dominion over Arha, over revering the forces the Tombs belong to.

A truly gratifying part of the book was the ending. It would have been VERY easy to simply set the characters outside the Tomb and waffle off a little 'happily ever after' bit. Le Guin doesn't allow herself the easy way out though. She continues to explore Tenar's feelings as they make their way away and it was good. The portrayal of her emotional turmoil and sense of loss and lostness was excellent.

Another thing I found particularly satisfying was the explanation of the strangers Ged met on the reef in book 1. I hope their story isn't complete. It was great to learn more about them, but the more you learn about them - the harder hitting and sadder their tale becomes. When you dwell on their fate and the lives they must have led up until Ged met them... Their story is truly gut-wrenching.

Of all the people Ged meets on his travels and all those who inhabit the Tombs, I feel the most sympathy for the castaways on the reef. I REALLY hope Le Guin has some kind of redemption in mind for them, but I can't see how she can. Their tragic, sad lives seem to be another reminder of the realness and gritty undertone of Le Guin's story. It isn't in your face grittiness like Game of Thrones, there aren't beheadings, disembowellings, impalings and people being eaten alive and stuff... Le Guin is subtler and applies the grit brush on a more deeply emotional level.

All in all I loved this book and enjoyed it far more than the first one. My only criticism was it could have been longer. I can't mark it down on that because as much as anything it's a testament to how much I was enjoying reading this!

Paperback:- http://amzn.to/2fPKqJ9
Kindle:- http://amzn.to/2wwtP0l

Martyn Stanley
Author of:-
The Last Dragon Slayer (Free to download)
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,006 followers
December 27, 2015
This always used to be my favourite of the series, both for sheer atmosphere and because it featured a female-centred world, in complete contrast to the first book. It’s almost the opposite, in that way: Ged isn’t the POV character anymore, and instead we follow Arha/Tenar, seeing her experience in a different land, seeing Ged as an outsider. That latter is especially fun, because though he talks about not learning Ogion’s lessons, it seems that he really has. And there was always an attraction for the dark rituals, Arha’s dance in front of the Empty Throne, the drums struck softly at heart-pace. Le Guin didn’t just blindly throw together a bunch of superstitions and fake rituals: it hangs together as a cohesive whole, and the fact that even the characters find the rituals meaningless, strange, the significances lost in time… that also works for me.

One image that always sticks with me is that of Ged asleep on the ground, the small thistle by his hand. That image somehow epitomises the book for me: his serenity and trust, his link to the world around him, and also the way Tenar sees him, truly sees him, alive and in the world and not at all a part of the dark existence she led before… it’s hard to put into words, but that image does it.

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Lea.
117 reviews301 followers
May 24, 2020
Le Guin fascinates me again! This is another highly intelligent and well-thought-out fantasy story. I loved that in this sequel, Ged wasn't the only main character and that we are introduced to Tenar, a very well developed female character. The story starts with a young girl named Tenar, with given name Arha, and she is separated at a young age from her parents to become a High priestess in the temple of the Unnamed ones. So this is not just story about young wizard Ged, it is mostly about Tenar, as Ged is a visitor in her world. The story could also be read as the maturation of the Anima aspect in Ged, as well as the development of the womanhood of Tenar. Le Guin her demonstrates the capability of describing both men and women's path of psychological development - for each integration of the opposite sex aspect is inevitable for maturity, and unity of both male and female parts of the psyche are inevitable for the process of individuation, to find a true, authentic Self.

''You have set us both free," he said. "Alone, no one wins freedom. ''

Without each other, both Ged and Tenar would be destroyed in some way. I highly respect that Ged and Tenar played such a big part in each other's lives in liberation and progress without being romantically involved in any phase. I love that their unity is represented in two parts of one ring as a higher spiritual principle that brings peace to mankind, rather than physical unity in sexuality that brings relief only to them. Interestingly, the previous book could be interpreted as Ged's beginning of the process of individuation in the integration of the shadow aspect. According to Jung, the next step in individuation is the maturation of the Anima - the female aspect of the hero. When a male hero has to undergo the development of the female aspect he is always stripped down from his manpower - as Ged lost his staff and clothing in the Labyrinth of Thombs. It is also interesting that the Labyrinths are completely in dark - that can represent unconsciousness. Ged can bring light to one level, but it eventually goes out. Tenar is the one that knows the maps of the labyrinth by hearts and sees in the dark - Ged would be completely and utterly lost without her. Symbolically man principle is represented in Apollo - light, reason, logic and consciousness, but the female principle, for example Aphrodite, reigns in unconsciousness, the world of impulses, instincts, fertility and creativity. This is not the first story in with male hero is guided out of the labyrinth of unconsciousness by the help of female wisdom - we have the same situation with Ariadne that gave Theseus gift that guided him through the labyrinth of Minotaur, and enabled him to find a way to defeat the monster.

Ged can also be viewed as Tenar's Animus. He helped Tenar by giving her the light and truth od reason, a perspective of the outer world she didn't know about, that helped her to break out of the dominion of a repressive matriarchal world she lived in - priestess were the servants of dark forces, but had the highest power in the community - men only excited in their word as slaves with cut out tongues or eunuchs that served them - both representing castration (in one way striping men of power to produce form and meaning by language, one of stripping men of sexual power and potency). That is the guiding principle of the toxic matriarchal world - men have no purpose or value, they only exist to be dominated and serve the feminine (mirror principle can be found in a destructive form of patriarchy - but that is by far more talked about when on an individual level both pathologies are common). By creating a real human relationship with a man, Ged, Tenar violated the law of matriarchy and had to be punished. Now in this new state of being she could stay and dye, or run and break free. As Neumann said in the study of the psychological development of women, in her path to maturity women can use matriarchal principles to take control and be empowered and independent, but the key is not to integrate the destructive part that hates and wants to destroy the masculine, as Tenar in the end successfully did. As Tenar did with Ged, women can take constructive parts of masculinity without harming the masculine. Ged helped Tenar by calling her by her true name, she guided him through unconsciousness and he guided her through consciousness about her identity.

"You told me to show you something worth seeing. I show you yourself.''

Tenar was only known as Arha (with meant the eaten one - her true identity was eaten by rules and expectations of others, mostly the ruling principle of a tyrannical mother) and only Ged had the knowledge of her true name, and hearing her true name gave her the freedom to be true and authentic self. She critically questioned the world she lived in and came to her unique perspective and conclusion, and in the process broke out of the darkness of unconsciousness and inauthenticity. Hearing her true name created the connection to true self - her own identity and desires outside of what is expected of her to due, and what other people told her she is made for.

"I am Tenar," she said, not aloud, and she shook with cold, and terror, and exultation, there under the open, sunwashed sky. "I have my name back. I am Tenar!''

But even freedom and consciousness have their weight and are not easy to deal with, and in the end this is just a starting point for both Ged and Tenar.

''What she had begun to learn was the weight of liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.''

Le Guin's capability to write such an enlightened but simple story astonishes me. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series as this is such a brilliant synthesis of a book that is highly enjoyable, yet profound.
Profile Image for Sv.
322 reviews106 followers
January 24, 2021
İlk başta baktım Ged yok, biraz afalladım. Ama sonra anladım. 👀 Bu da kitabı bayağı bir kurtardı itiraf etmek gerekirse. Sevdim bu seriyi bayağı bi...
Profile Image for August Reads.
109 reviews53 followers
May 15, 2022
Excelente novela de Ursula K. Le Guin, la segunda de su saga de Terramar. Aunque, pese a ser la segunda, es totalmente autoconclusiva por lo que es posible leerla sin tener que adentrarse en la novela anterior.

Acá conocemos a Tenar, una pequeña niña, que un buen día es elegida como la reencarnación de la sacerdotisa Artha, y por tanto la nueva protectora de las tumbas de Atuan. A partir de ahí conoceremos el entrenamiento y los primeros pasos de nuestra protagonista en este nuevo mundo, así como todos los cuestionamientos que se van a ir agolpeando en su mente a medida que crece, algo que alcanzará su clímax máximo cuando descubra que un misterioso hombre se ha colado en las mismas tumbas que ella, como alta sacerdotisa, a jurado proteger.

Para iniciar, he de decir que la pluma de Ursula es magnífica. Esta es la segunda novela que leo de ella (la primera fue su recopilación de cuentos "Las doce moradas del viento") y sin lugar a dudas me ha dejado anonadado. Como podrás ver, la trama es bastante sencilla, desprovista de grandes muestras de magia y criaturas imposibles, tan comunes en la literatura fantástica en a veces vanos intentos de imprimirle algo de epicidad a ciertas historias. Acá no, Ursula se centra exclusivamente en el desarrollo personal y psicológico de la protagonista, en sus cuestionamientos ante lo establecido, en los conflictos internos propios de sus obligaciones... y lo mejor de todo es que no lo hace de manera aburrida, sino qué logra conectarte tanto con el personaje que realmente empatizamos con sus decisiones, sus dudas y su posterior rebeldía.

La ambientación, por otra parte, es otra cosa digna de destacar. Esa sensación de claustro religioso venido a menos, junto a lo sombrío y tenebroso de las catacumbas le imprimen a la novela ese tono épico-fantástico que te hace preguntarte constantemente qué es lo que pueden albergar los alrededores... y pese a que, como mencioné anteriormente, no aparecen criaturas de fantasía, lo que allí yace tampoco nos decepciona.

No obstante, ¿Por que pese a que me ha gustado tanto la novela le he dado cuatro estrellas y no cinco? Y la respuesta es sencilla, su final, a mi opinión, no termina de cerrar del todo bien. A través de las páginas la autora nos da a entender que habría alguna especie de persecución con un desenlace confrontacional, alguna batalla épica final o algo por el estilo. Sin embargo, esta nunca llega dejándome una cierta sensación dulceamarga en el paladar. Por supuesto el final es cerrado, no dejando dudas del destino que seguirán los protagonistas, lo que me causó cierta tristeza, pues de verdad me había encariñado con Tenar... Y sí, sé que en libros futuros vuelve a aparecer, pero hasta donde tengo entendido estos retoman la historia de la muchacha muchos años después, cuando ya está casada, viuda, con hijos.

En fin, una gran novela que en manos de otro escritor de seguro sería un tostón, no obstante, acá hablamos de la gran Úrsula K. Le Guin qué con su refinado estilo logra darle ese tono profundo, épico, entretenido e intimista que muy pocos autores logran conseguir.

¡Novela muy recomendada!
Profile Image for Jeraviz.
902 reviews388 followers
March 17, 2022
Me ha parecido una historia muy difícil de escribir que solo la mano de Le Guin y unos pocos pueden hacerlo con maestría.

Me explico: la narración se centra solamente en un lugar, las tumbas de Atuan, y más concretamente en sus laberintos bajo tierra donde no hay luz. Es decir, la mayor parte de la acción transcurre a oscuras y solo los diálogos o los sentimientos de la protagonista nos dan información. Eso si no lo haces muy bien conseguirás que el lector se canse a la tercera página a oscuras. En cambio me he leído las 140 páginas del tirón, deseando saber si conseguían el tesoro y si podían escapar de las sombras.

No os fieis mucho de la sinopsis, parece una continuación de las aventuras del mago Ged pero aquí solamente aparece en la recta final del libro, centrándose la trama en la niña sacerdotisa de las tumbas y su lucha por liberarse de su destino.

Es necesario haber leído el anterior para entender ciertas referencias pero me ha parecido un libro bastante autocontenido.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,006 followers
July 13, 2009
Much as I love A Wizard of Earthsea, there isn't much feminine about it. It's a male society, it seems in that book, shaped by men and only inhabited by women. I don't know how much thought Le Guin put into that, originally, but the women in the story don't really have much of a place. There's the witch and Serret and the Kargish woman and Yarrow... but they don't have great parts in Ged's life. He's taken away from the tutelage of the witch because only a man can teach him wizardry, and there's the sayings, "Weak as women's magic" and "Wicked as women's magic". Le Guin addresses those issues later, in Tehanu, but women aren't really present in the first book.

So it's just nice to have a book framed by women: Tenar and Thar and Kossil and Penthe, the priestesses and novices of the Tombs. Women are the only ones allowed to serve the gods, or at least the Nameless Ones -- well, women and eunuchs. The fact that Arha/Tenar is the main character, and not Ged, gives it a whole different slant. She has a different kind of life, so her story is rather different. Her story is less of an epic quest than Ged's -- there's tension, and danger, but they're not going to something, they're escaping something. She has to grow as a person in a different way. The quest is Ged's, as before, but we see him coming in from outside this time. It's interesting.

The language and descriptions and images are all as beautiful as the first book. There's something very compelling about the Tombs, the dark rituals. You can feel the cold, the routine hardness -- you feel stuck in the rut that Arha has been stuck in throughout her many lives. You can feel the slow unchangingness of the place. And you feel the joy and weight of the escape, too. I like the rhythms and tastes of this book the best in the whole series, I think. Some of the descriptions have just stuck in my head -- the drum struck at a slow heart-pace, the little thistle growing beside Ged's hand. And some of the things Ged says, his descriptions of Havnor and his speech that is essentially about "nature red in tooth and claw".

This is really the only book that steps out of Ged's own culture. The others are mostly rooted in the Archipelagan traditions, which is interesting enough, but this provides a bit more worldbuilding. Which is awesome.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,230 reviews1,003 followers
August 8, 2013
One of my favorite books of all time - I've probably read this one over two dozen times.
It's a deceptively simple story, simple in the way that all truths are simple, allegorical in that it can be applied to all of our lives. it's a story of growing up, of claiming freedom and independence, and all the fear and pain and joy that can accompany that. But it's also just the story of Tenar, called Arha, priestess of the Nameless Ones and mistress of the Undertomb - a girl who believes herself hard, cold and powerful. And it is the story of Ged, the young wizard who finds himself at her mercy. It is a story of finding compassion, and how strength lies not in the dark and restricted ways, or in bringing death - but instead lies in having the courage to admit vulnerability, in daring to step outside all that is taught and to find ones way to the light.
The writing is just beautiful - some of the descriptive passages here are unparallelled. A perfect book.
Profile Image for Deniz Balcı.
Author 2 books568 followers
September 14, 2017
Hep aynı şeyleri söylemek istemiyorum ama bazı kitaplar gerçekten ilk gençlikte okunmalı. 'Yerdeniz Serisi'nin bu ikinci kitabı o kadar güçlü bir girizgahla umutlandırdı ve merakla okumaya devam etmemi sağladı ki sonu büyük hayal kırıklığı oldu. Okuma zevki açısından bir sorun olduğunu söylemiyorum, zira elime aldım ve tek oturuşta okudum. Kendini okutturan bir anlatımı var ve bana göre birçok insanın bu seriyi, fazla sevmesinin temelinde de bu var. Ancak bana göre bir eseri kolayca okuyabilmek, o eseri bize sevdiren koşullardan biri olmamalı.
Ursula'nın bu seriyi kaleme aldığı seneler, Joseph Camphell'ın 'monomit' yapısının, en çok konuşulduğu ve uygulandığı seneler. O günlerin kokusu sinmiş kitabın üzerine. Her taşın altından bir 'ben burdayım' diye bağıran yerleştirme çıkıyor. Cinsellik, uyanış, tamamlanma, bilinmeyen, çarpışma, olgunlaşma, eksik parça vs. Arketiplerin karşılıkları havada uçuşuyor. Okurken zihinsel anlamda bir bu tarafa bir öte tarafa savuruyor. Hiç bunları düşünmeden kendimi hikayenin içine bırakabilseydim... İşte dedim ya bazı kitaplar daha erken, ilk gençlikte okunmalı.

Kitap kötü bir kitap değil ama, onu kastetmiyorum. Sadece alanı dar, hacmi az.

Profile Image for Zanna.
676 reviews941 followers
November 14, 2019
To me the most beautiful and striking aspect of this haunting and haunted novel is the hesitantly built and fragile trust between Ged and Tenar. Without this trust, without each other’s help, neither of them could get anywhere, could even survive. In her retrospective afterword, Le Guin writes that at the time she wrote the novel she could not imagine a woman being truly independent, and her resolution emphasises interdependence between men and women. She makes the gendered interpretation of this interdependence explicit, but although gender is very salient in the novel, I did not feel, for example, that Ged need necessarily have been male for the story to work. Of course, I am living in a different socio-political era. In any case, I was moved by their relationship, intense but not at all sexual, and the moment when Ged hands over his name is a worthy payoff for the many dreary chapters my co-reader and I had ploughed through to get to it.

What also struck me reading the afterword though, was Le Guin’s insistence that the fantasy world of Earthsea had to reflect real-world patriarchy to have any political resonance. This contrasts with her treatment of skin colour in Earthsea and in other areas of her fantasy world, where protagonists are often dark-skinned but white supremacy seems simply not to be a thing. To me this, shall we say, fantasy colourblindness seems a nice strategy compared to the disturbingly all-white or worse universes produced by some fantasy authors. Le Guin reproduces patriarchy in order to critique it, but although suspicion of strangers or foreigners exists in Earthsea, it has nothing to do with melanin. Fantasy colourblindness functions like colourblind casting, suggesting that while racism is a major structuring element of the world we know, it is absurd and artificial. White readers like myself can learn something from our own surprise when a character we've already identified with is described as dark-skinned.

Tenar, the supposedly reincarnated First Priestess of the Tombs bears the name Arha, which signifies that the Nameless Ones, creatures related to the shadow Ged invokes and is pursued by in A Wizard of Earthsea, have eaten her soul. Ged reassures her that this isn’t possible; that she is not evil, not corrupted or corruptible in the way she fears. The soul, he implies, cannot be eaten. This reminded me of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, where the clones are made to produce art in the hopes that this will demonstrate that they have souls. What was so clear in that book, so incontrovertibly evident, was that the soul as it’s felt in my culture at least, is not something magical that could somehow be missing in someone conceived by artificial methods, but an emergent and dynamic phenomenon, relational, cumulative, arising from will, memory, emotion, contact with others, something no demon-invoking ritual could cancel out, something indestructible.
Profile Image for Robert.
816 reviews44 followers
October 21, 2013
I've read the first three Earthsea books a heap of times, starting when I was at my academic peak (i.e. in primary school). Through-out my childhood readings I preferred the two that sandwiched this one. Looking back it is easy for me to see why: it wasn't about Ged and it didn't have enough sailing about to far flung places (i.e. exploration) in it. In contrast, I have observed that a number of female Goodreaders who are also LeGuin fans, rate this higher than the other two. I can take a guess as to why that might be; there are no female characters in the other two. There are some women, even some who play pivotal roles, in both, but they are not fully formed characters, let alone protagonists. Most of these women are unpleasant or down-right evil. A Wizard of Earthsea and The Farthest Shore are entirely male-dominated. The Tombs of Atuan, in contrast, is almost entirely female dominated.


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Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
740 reviews174 followers
August 19, 2020
What she had begun to learn was the weight of liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.

The second book in Ursula Le Guin's venerated Earthsea series follows the story of young Tamar, who is taken from her parents at a young age and raised to be the High Priestess to the ancient Nameless Ones. Tamar's story is interesting but not especially compelling until about the midway point when it begins to tie in to the characters and events of its predecessor A Wizard of Earthsea. As in the first book, Le Guin's beautiful prose and deftly drawn characters are underscored by the themes of duality and identity.
Profile Image for Kaora.
559 reviews280 followers
March 14, 2015
And at the year's end she is taken to the Hall of the Throne and he name is given back to those who are her Masters, the Nameless Ones: for she is the nameless one, the Priestess Ever Reborn.

Tenar is selected as a young child as the Priestess Reborn and taken from her family at the young age of 5 to become the guardian of the Tombs of Atuan. However, one day while walking the labyrinth of her domain, she comes across a young wizard, Sparrowhawk, searching for the treasure hidden there, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. He brings with him magic, and makes her question everything she's been taught.

This was a relatively quick read, and while it seems that it did take a while for the story to pick up the pace, Le Guin does a great job of setting up the story and the characters.

It isn't exactly action packed, but the writing is beautiful and it makes me wonder what is to come in the books following in the series.
Profile Image for Max.
Author 145 books2,124 followers
February 14, 2018
Reread, for the first time in a long while. When I was thirteen I appreciated this book but I didn't like it as much as Wizard and Farthest Shore—there's less magic, less incident, and a lot more slow creeping dread. On this reread the dread itself became magical. And much as I love Ged, Tenar feels more... like she exists from the marrow out. I have a theory about this, but it's more of an essay-length theory than a Goodreads capsule review theory. In short, brilliant and deep.
Profile Image for Nasia.
353 reviews80 followers
August 23, 2019
Υπέροχο το δεύτερο βιβλίο του κόσμου του Earthsea, το αγάπησα ακόμα περισσότερο από το πρώτο, είχε τον ρυθμό που μου ταιριάζει περισσότερο, ήταν σκοτεινό, μας έφερε μια άλλη οπτική, αυτήν της Τέναρ και απλά αγάπησα και τον επίλογο της συγγραφέα, με τον οποίο είμαι 100% σύμφωνη.
Profile Image for Alejandra Arévalo.
498 reviews1,252 followers
November 27, 2022
Enamorada quedé, qué increíble mundo, qué personaja tan multicolor, sí es una luz en la oscuridad.
Profile Image for Zitong Ren.
504 reviews152 followers
December 29, 2020
I enjoyed this a fair bit more than book 1, A Wizard of Earthsea. It is still a four star and not quite a five, but in my opinion, I enjoyed this book a lot more. I do think this is because the story in this novel is centred on one thing instead lots of smaller things and side quests before leading up to the final event as seen in book 1. This book just had a more concise plot and that the book knew better on what it wanted to tell and achieve beyond Ged’s growing up story seen in book 1. Because of this, I liked this more.

It also has a female protagonist in Tenar and Ged, the main character from book 1 has a much smaller role. I really enjoyed that as well - women weren’t heavily represented in classic fantasy and this book having a female protagonist when it was published in the 1960s sort of shows that Le Guin was really ahead of her time and I love that. Her character was well realised and well written, and I honestly found her to be more compelling to follow her compared to Ged. Overall, I just enjoyed the way that she was written. Now saying that, I would have liked a bit more from some of the side characters beyond what they were to Tenar, but since it is such a short book, I completely get that the author does not have the time to fully develop everyone.

I thought the plot was pretty good and it was much better paced than book 1 simply because there wasn’t constant time jumps, sometimes of several years at a time. It was much steadier, and I ended up getting more invested in the story and what would happen to Tenar and Ged than I expected to, which was great. The Tombs themselves was a really cool setting and I liked the way that it was built up and developed and the whole idea of a priestess that looks after the tombs and the things we learn about them at the end was genuinely quite good.

The worldbuilding remains solid, though not overly deep or detailed as expected since it is targeted towards more younger readers. I do like how the worldbuilding is implemented and how it isn’t too infodumpy and it sort of just comes normally. Naturally, I almost wish for more worldbuilding, but it gave us enough for what I needed for the story to feel complete while keeping the world feel mystical and magical enough throughout which is a bonus.

Towards the end, I almost surprised myself by how engaged and how much I was enjoying everything, and I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much, so it was a really nice surprise. Anyway, yeah, this was a really solid book. 8/10
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,108 reviews1,168 followers
April 9, 2022
I read A Wizard of Earthsea more than a decade ago, and admired the writing and anthropologically-informed worldbuilding, while not feeling any personal resonance with the story or characters. Returning to Earthsea much later, with a different book and with more maturity as a reader, was far more rewarding, though I have some doubts that are perhaps more in the vein of literary criticism than typical review material (and concentrated around the end, so will be discussed beneath the spoiler alert at the end of this review).

This is an excellent novel, which although alternately classified as children’s or YA, was published in 1970, when those categories were not as firm as they are now. So it truly does work for adult readers and has elements that would seem out-of-place in books aimed at kids today. Le Guin is an exceptional prose stylist, and the book uses a somewhat distant, quasi-mythological tone that lends appropriate gravitas to the story. She’s also an excellent worldbuilder, and the setting feels truly real and textured in a way few fantasy worlds do. (While neither is prominent here, the presence of endemic diseases such as smallpox, and the existence of multiple languages, are indicative of her commitment to realism in creating a historically-based setting, while most fantasy features a bizarrely monolingual world curiously lacking in disease.) Her discussion in the afterword of using fantasy as a way to reflect and reflect upon our world, rather than for simple wish-fulfillment and escapism, is one that resonates with me (though wish-fulfillment is nice sometimes too!).

However, I also found this book to present a compelling story, and read it in a single day. It focuses on a girl named Tenar, believed to be the reincarnation of an important priestess, who is taken from her family as a child and raised to honor the dark spirits of the mysterious Tombs. A major theme is how Tenar uses her power—her special status as Chosen One and the role of authority this grants her from a young age—and it isn’t always pretty: being a child, she sometimes abuses it, and some of the religious expectations placed upon her are quite grim. Her experiences are well-developed, with subtle depiction of emotion.

It’s certainly a darker book than I expected, though in a quiet way, with a setting devoid of warmth and joy. But things change for Tenar when a wizard appears to steal treasure from the Tombs, and she must decide how to respond and what moral code to follow. And despite all this high-minded talk, I also found the plot compelling: as the book is short, it moves quickly, especially in the second half, with real tension and drama.

All that said, my thoughts on the book are ultimately complicated, and can’t be discussed without


Upon a first reading, and looking back now, part of me feels that this book should have ended at the end of Chapter 10: “The two paused a moment, then passed over the crest of the hill, out of sight of the Place of the Tombs, and were gone.” But it doesn’t: there’s another two full chapters to follow. What’s going on here?

Well, Le Guin is writing a larger story, not just about surviving the Labyrinth but about one’s place in the world afterwards. And there’s a keen sense of letdown about it. Tenar seems more juvenile the moment she steps off temple grounds. She is—while the word isn’t used—leaving her country as a refugee, immigrating to a place where she does not know anyone, speak the language, nor have the education to succeed. She’s only 16, of course, she can make up for lost time. But she’ll never again have the power and exalted place in the world that she held back home.

On some level, the book clearly realizes this: pointing out the deficits in Tenar’s language skills and education, for instance. On the other hand, it seems to celebrate her freedom in a way that doesn’t seem entirely commensurate with her powerless situation. Here’s the actual ending: “ ‘Come!’ he said smiling, and she rose, and came. Gravely she walked beside him up the white streets of Havnor, holding his hand, like a child coming home.” It’s a callback to the first sentence, in which four-year-old Tenar’s mother calls her home, and seems to imply she’s come full circle. But by doing so it emphasizes Tenar’s place as a child, which she isn’t: 16 isn’t exactly childhood in our world and it certainly isn’t in hers, where she is considered an adult at 14. She’s come of age, yes—she’s made grown-up decisions about who she is going to be and what direction her life will take—but she’s also regressed.

Which is shown most starkly through her key relationships. Back home at the Tombs, she has Manan, her childhood guardian. By the time she reaches her teenage years, Tenar dominates Manan, ordering him around and substituting her judgment for his. But as her relationship with Ged progresses, he comes to dominate her and substitute his judgment for hers, and her arc ends with her acquiescence to this. I read this book directly after All Systems Red, and the endings of the two books are a fascinating contrast (spoilers for that one too, obviously). Both protagonists move from a situation of bondage to freedom, with the help of a new friend whose life they have saved. Both new friends now claim the authority to direct the protagonists’ next steps. But to this, Murderbot says no, while Tenar says yes.

What to make of this difference? Does this reflect Le Guin’s insistence on depicting the world as it is, rather than as we might wish it to be, while Wells succumbed to the current cultural distaste for “saviorism” even though someone new to freedom actually does need support and guidance? Or is it about gender—that Le Guin, writing in 1969, believed a young woman needed a male protector, as she implies in the afterword, while the male-coded Murderbot is seen as having less need of protection, especially from a female friend? Or are they too dissimilar to meaningfully compare (after all, Murderbot has some experience of the outside world, and its legal status is in jeopardy, neither of which is true for Tenar)? Whatever you think about that comparison, it’s clear that by exercising her power, Tenar has relinquished it, and ends the novel as a passive figure. Reminiscent of the bride who has the right to choose her husband, for the law to make him her lord and master ever after.

And that’s the crux of my discomfort with the ending. In her own country, Tenar has power. She’s the Chosen One, the First Priestess. The presumed death of her nemesis, Kossil, would leave Tenar the undisputed leader of her religious community. She’s learned that the spirits of the Tombs are malignant, and the destruction of the Labyrinth creates a void, an opportunity for a new, healthier form of religion to arise in its place. And who is better situated to lead the community in this direction than Tenar, with her newfound knowledge and moral compass? And yet, she flees, leaving her community rudderless and her country without the crucial information she’s learned that might guide it to a brighter future. In that light, when Tenar leaves with Ged, she’s turning her back on her destiny—and she’s doing it because he insists that she has only two choices, to kill him and stay or save him and run. And she accepts his judgment.

At this point you may be thinking that we don’t know for sure that Kossil is dead, and that reforming a religion would take leadership skills and ingenuity that we aren’t sure Tenar has, and that she would likely be pitting herself against entrenched interests that would prefer to keep the status quo, and that she’s incurred the wrath of some spirits that might just be able to reach beyond the Labyrinth, and anyway she’s just a teenager, doesn’t she have the right to go live her own life rather than being a martyr for her benighted countrymen? To which I say, welcome to fantasy. Every teenage hero faces such seemingly insurmountable odds. And it would be one thing if Le Guin acknowledged them, and had Tenar explicitly Refuse the Call, choosing individualism rather than self-sacrifice. That would be a statement. But she doesn’t. From a modern viewpoint it looks uncomfortably like the idea of Tenar rising to true leadership never crossed Le Guin’s mind, that this fell in the category of feminist wish-fulfillment that she found too inauthentic to consider even long enough for Tenar to decide against it.

The last factor in all this is religion itself, of course. The worship of the spirits of the Tombs is explicitly an Evil Religion. And it’s fascinating to see how it works, how Tenar interprets the world with that religion as her foundation, and then deconstructs from it. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with this element, though, and the crux of it is in this exchange between Tenar and Ged:

“ ‘What have they [your gods] ever given you, Tenar?’
‘Nothing,’ she whispered.”

Well that’s an awfully simplistic summary of a whole life, isn’t it? And it isn’t just that Tenar is a teenager who has just changed her mind and therefore done so violently. We were there, and her life so far has had basically nothing to offer: no warmth, no joy, no true friendship.

I should pause here and say that I recently read and admired a memoir of a woman who deconstructed from a real-life Evil Religion, and what I admired most was its nuance: her ability to hold in mind the joy and fellowship she found there, the pain of leaving almost everyone she had ever loved, and at the same time the realization that the sect was poison and she had to leave no matter what. It’s fair to say most real-life experiences get simplified in fiction, and more so in fantasy, and that despite that Tenar’s personal evolution rings true. But then take Empire of Sand, another fantasy novel featuring a heroine conscripted into an Evil Religion: that book still makes a point of showing fun and fellowship among the adherents, and how joining the community is actually an improvement for most of them. On the other hand, Suri takes the simplistic approach of putting a mustache-twirling villain at the top, while Le Guin’s portrayal is naturalistic; perhaps she felt she couldn’t afford to bring warmth to the Place of the Tombs, or it would defeat the evil?

Because it does feel like a very negative portrayal in the end, not only of religion but of communities of women. It’s striking that the only person there with whom Tenar shares some closeness is her eunuch servant, while the women are shown as wasting their lives and energies. But does it need to be that bad? Convents may not be most people’s ideal life choice, after all, but then neither is marrying a peasant farmer in a world without birth control, women’s rights or any social safety net to ensure the poor don’t starve in a famine. So I can’t help wondering—and I say this is a firmly non-religious person myself—whether Le Guin might have taken a wider view of Tenar’s choices had her vision of the religious life not been so relentlessly negative.

All that said, if you haven’t read this book you may as well try it and see for yourself! It’s very accomplished and very short, so almost certainly worth your time.
Profile Image for Elena Rodríguez.
527 reviews240 followers
February 9, 2020
Segunda parte de un mago de Terramar. La verdad es que no sabía ni de que trataba esta segunda parte. Lo que si sabía era que era lo suficientemente corta para no agobiarme en temporada alta de exámenes. La verdad es que me decepcionó un poco el hecho que Gavilán no fuese el protagonista, pero me gustó mucho el hecho de a pesar de la poca distancia que existen entre las islas que componen el mundo de Terramar, sus culturas son totalmente diferentes entre sí.
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