The Tombs of Atuan

Ursula K. Le Guin
The Tombs of Atuan Cover

The Tombs of Atuan


I liked The Tombs of Atuan more than its predecessor, The Wizard of Earthsea. Wizard was kind of rambling and picaresque, where Tombs was much more focused, telling just a single story.

Both books feature Le Guin's lovely elegant turns of phrase, which would have been totally wasted on me as a child, and I look forward to working through the rest of the set.

At only 130 pages, this will likely be the shortest book I read all year, and indeed I read the whole thing in a single afternoon as a change of pace from another book while spending some time in bed with another winter virus. But they are 130 quality pages.

Tenar is taken from her parents as a child, and trained to be the priestess of the Nameless Ones in a remote compound with two other temples and a small community of novices and priestesses. The Nameless Ones are unusual in only having one priestess, who is said to be reincarnated in a continuous chain, and in being much older than the other gods. Beneath their temple - beneath the Tombs of Atuan - is a deadly labyrinth containing priceless treasures, including one item the godless wizards of the inner isles are keen to get hold of.

The first Earthsea book was a collection of separate incidents. The Tombs of Atuan gives us a new viewpoint, and a deeper exploration of one particular part of a part of Earthsea we haven't been to before.

I liked it a lot. 4/5.