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The Tombs of Atuan

(Earthsea Cycle #2)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  86,933 ratings  ·  3,030 reviews
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,
Mass Market Paperback, 180 pages
Published September 1st 2001 by Gallery / Saga Press (first published 1970)
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Layla I think a lot of the answers here don't give satisfying answers to your question. I've just finished the "The Tombs of Atuan", but I know how Ged's an…moreI think a lot of the answers here don't give satisfying answers to your question. I've just finished the "The Tombs of Atuan", but I know how Ged's and Tenar's story continues from spoiling myself on Wikipedia lol.

Short answer: yes, this is a love story between Tenar/Arha and Ged, but not in the traditional sense.

Long answer: first and foremost, "The Tombs of Atuan" is a Bildungsroman - so it has many themes associated with coming-of-age. The main themes are identity, redemption, trust, and defying a false destiny. One of the minor themes is love. Tenar experiences many different conflicting, confusing and distressing emotions and revelations when Ged comes into her lives, and the combined feelings of resentment and love are some of them.

The love story is definitely there - it's just that Tenar, having very little exposure to a world that isn't consumed by religious fanaticism, doesn't understand what she's feeling (very easy to infer from the later chapters). Also, she's 15.

We don't get to see things from Ged's perspective, but it's pretty obvious that he cares for her deeply, but at that moment the reader is unsure if he returns her feelings.

The book might not be an orthodox love story, but it's definitely the beginning of one.
Kendrah Rib No, I believe it is not, as the two books are told from two different story lines. However, to understand the character Ged, his own journey and heart…moreNo, I believe it is not, as the two books are told from two different story lines. However, to understand the character Ged, his own journey and heart as it relates to the main character in this story, I recommend reading the first, if not before at least after. Enjoy!(less)

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Start your review of The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle, #2)
June 2012

I want to give this five stars, but I'm afraid one of the next ones will be even better, and my attempts to rate it higher will cause Goodreads to implode. Or something.

On second thought, no. Five stars. Let's do this thing.

You've probably read or heard somewhere that you can put a frog (it's a frog, right?) in a pot of water and set it on a stove, and the frog will never notice what's happening until it's too late. So they say. Well, Ursula K. Le Guin writes like that: you open the boo
Sean Barrs
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that want a quick fantasy fix
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 wit
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 somethi
Ahmad Sharabiani
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 O
Sep 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 th ...more
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Bionic Jean
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bionic Jean by: Chris Naylor
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 ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970s, fantasy, reviewed
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 inspi ...more
Manuel Antão
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Scope Review: Earthsea Trilogy.

“Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky”

Yin & Yang?

I honestly don't remember a time when I wasn't obsessed with reading and collecting books. I'd define childhood as a never-ending vacation. A weekend without a week following and reading-time everlasting. I still remember the never-ending days of my childhood. My first date. My first ki
Martyn Stanley
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-read, good-book
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
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
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 ...more
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favourites
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 ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bechdel-pass
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 thi ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebook, fiction, fantasy
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 ...more
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-reads
I just think I'm not gelling with this series unfortunately. It did pick up at the end of chapter 9, but this failed to hold my interest the entire way through.
Althea Ann
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I think The Tombs of Atuan has always been my favourite of the Earthsea cycle. I said to someone recently that the quiet moment where Tenar watches Ged sleeping, and there's a thistle by his hand, and the world just seems so strange, was somehow a moment that perfectly defines Le Guin's work for me. That quietness, that moment of clarity, of seeing-things-anew...

If nothing else, that's the feeling I get when I read her work.

The Tombs of Atuan begins to redress the balance of the world Le Guin cr
Jeanette (Again)
This is the second book in the Earthsea Cycle. Plot-wise it's not as good as A Wizard of Earthsea, but the writing is better. It has such wonderful fluidity that I read the entire book in just a few hours. For that I can give it four stars, though the story lacks the magic and adventure of the first book.

Tenar is taken from her family at the age of five and given to "the Dark Ones" (aka "the Nameless Ones") at the age of six. The belief is that they eat her soul, and thereafter she belongs to t
Jade Ratley
Jun 23, 2020 rated it liked it
I feel like I enjoyed this one more than the first book, but according to CAWPILE it scored less, so perhaps I am looking back on the first book poorly.

I think these books are quite difficult to explain and talk about, it was an interesting story, and I felt for our main character here, but I was overall not very invested in the story at all, and didn't find myself caring too much about what happened. The worship aspect of this was intriguing, and having it deconstructed was fascinating but I w
Kara Babcock
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What wonderful and vivid imagery this book contains. Imagery with power for those readers who can identify with the central figure, Arha/Tenar, especially those who are faced with challenges in their own lives similar to those she confronts. I found imagery of the mystery and challenge of self-discovery; imagery of the conflict and dual-nature within humanity and within individuals; imagery of loss, dedication, loneliness, and self-denial; imagery of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood; imager ...more

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my LOCUS FANTASY list.

As the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners list treated me so kindly, I figure I’ll trust those same good folk to pick me some stars in their sister-list, the Locus Fantasy Award winners.

Le Guin and I continue to rub along well-enough, without
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
The second book in Earth sea cycle centers on coming of age tale of a young woman Tenar, who is dedicated in the service of nameless ones. The book for most part was really slow for me, and started to pick up when our wizard Ged from the first book makes an appearance and manages to change the world of Tenar.

Some of the strong points of the book are

1. Simple story.
2. Narration by Ursula K Le Guin.

Some of the weak points of book are

1. The rivalry between Kossil & Tenar seems hollow.
2. The book is
The second book of the Earthsea Cycle starts off in a slightly baffling way -- not with Ged, the central character of the series, but rather with Arha, a young girl who has been chosen to become the next High Priestess of the Tombs of Atuan and spends her life performing rituals in which no one really seems to believe any more. We follow Arha around her daily tasks, and just when we're wondering where the hell Ged is, he makes an appearance, and a fascinating sparring match between the wizard an ...more
Kat  Hooper
Mar 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Tombs of Atuan is very different from A Wizard of Earthsea. It focuses on a young woman who has spent her life cloistered in the tombs of gods who she serves but doesn't know. Just as the reader feels completely miserable at the state of this disillusioned young lady, Ged (who nobody would describe as particularly cheerful or up-beat), arrives and brings with him a much-needed ray of sunshine, even though he spends most of the book under the earth. Aft
Oliviu Craznic
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well, this is quite a perfect book, in every regard: the writing, the characters, the story, the setting.
A rework of the Theseus myth (proving once again originality is neither possible, nor relevant in literature), lovecraftian dark replacing the minotaur.
If Le Guin`s political views are still to be found in this novel (the good and educated „colored” people vs. the salvage, fanatic white blonde guys) , this is not the focus of the story, so the reader may very well disregard the political me
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beatrice hickox Review7 1 2 Nov 08, 2019 06:34PM  

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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, Orego ...more

Other books in the series

Earthsea Cycle (6 books)
  • A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1)
  • The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Cycle, #3)
  • Tehanu (Earthsea Cycle, #4)
  • Tales from Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #5)
  • The Other Wind (Earthsea Cycle, #6)

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