Review – The Tombs of Atuan

Posted December 6, 2015 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le GuinThe Tombs of Atuan, Ursula Le Guin

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.

Rating: 5/5

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2 responses to “Review – The Tombs of Atuan

  1. I always loved The Tombs of Atuan best, partly because – *gasp* – it had a female POV who wasn’t a little sister / homemaker (vanishingly rare at the time, although I discovered Alanna and Eilonwy at around the same time), and partly for the reasons you cite: the ritual and gloomy weight of the temple and temple life. I may have to follow in your footsteps and revisit this trilogy in the new year – I’m loving revisiting The Dark is Rising, so it’s more or less inevitable that Earthsea gets a look in.
    imyril recently posted…TDiR Readathon: Revisiting Over Sea, Under StoneMy Profile

    • I actually read Earthsea before I ever got to TDIR, which I know is an odd progression! But huh, I sort of group them together in my mind too — it feels appropriate to be rereading them more or less in parallel.

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