Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.

The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Series #2)

The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula K. Le Guin Of course, once I finished reading A Wizard of Earthsea, I wanted to continue reading about this world that Ursula LeGuin had created, especially since I was so pleasantly surprised by how different the books were from the horrid SciFi Channel miniseries, which tried unsuccessfully to combine these first two books into one story. The Tombs of Atuan separates the two stories, detailing only the story of Tenar, who appeared almost as a minor character in the miniseries.::: High Priestess :::As the story begins, a young girl, Tenar, is taken from her family and made to live at the tombs of Atuan in a sort of convent, as it is believed that she is the reincarnation of Arha (which means The Eaten One), the highest Priestess in the order, whose life is dedicated to serving The Unnamed Ones. Tenar herself becomes unnamed, and while her life is dedicated to the service of the religion, she is sad and lonely. A eunuch named Manan cares for her, but she has no friends and no family from the time she is five years old.Two priestesses, one named Thar and the other Kossil, are her teachers, and teach her "what she has yet to remember" from her other lives. Thar seems much more motherly to Arha, while Kossil seems to harbor some deep-seated resentment, possibly because there seem to be two competing religions at work at the tombs: the reverence for the Unnamed Ones and the worship of the god-king, the human king of the empire Atuan is part of. Arha's life, however, is monotonous for the most part, until one day when she is exploring the labyrinth underground, she finds an intruder and traps him. As it turns out, the intruder is Ged from A Wizard of Earthsea, who has come to the tombs because the dragon Orm Embar has told Ged that he will find the missing piece of the Ring of Erreth-Akbe, which will bring piece to Earthsea.All Arha knows about the wizards is that they are evil, but she is inexplicably drawn to Ged, and begins to seek his companionship, even at the risk of being discovered by Kossil. The more time she spends talking to Ged, the more she begins to re-evaluate all she has been taught, and believes. Kossil soon discovers that Arha has not killed Ged as she had claimed, and Arha risks her life to help him, even as he explains that the half of the Ring she had been taught was lost was actually in his possession, and gives Arha back her "true name" of Tenar, at which point she has to make a choice: join with Ged to return the Ring to its rightful place in the world and leave all that she knows, or kill Ged and go back to the worship of the Unnamed Ones.::: Dark and Light, Good and Evil :::LeGuin continues the themes of good versus evil that she began in A Wizard of Earthsea, this time with a Ged who is slightly older, and infinitely more confident. Arha/Tenar has a naivete reminiscent of Ged's in the previous novel, which keeps the reader guessing; whose belief is good, and whose is evil? Until close to the end of the novel, you aren't completely sure who is on the side of good.The Tombs of Atuan was a much faster read for me than the previous book. Where A Wizard of Earthsea seemed to set up the series, there wasn't a whole lot of plot. Instead, the book centered on Ged getting to know himself, and as a result, the reader getting to know Ged. A great deal of character introspection makes for great character development, but little plot to move. The Tombs of Atuan assumes that you have some familiarity with Ged's story, but doesn't require it. There is enough suspense and intrigue with Kossil's possible duplicity and Arha/Tenar's beginning doubts that you never feel that there is too much character exposition, and yet you feel a great sense of involvement with the characters, and are concerned for what will eventually happen to both Ged and Arha/Tenar.LeGuin has created a fascinating fantasy world that is timeless. The Tombs of Atuan was written in the 1970s, but doesn't feel dated at all. If anything is disappointing, it's that such short shrift was paid to this story when the SciFi Channel made the Earthsea miniseries.This review was previously published at Epinions:

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