Robert's Reviews > The Tombs of Atuan

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
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's review
Aug 21, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, favorites, flagon-s-dragon-shelf

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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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Tatiana Ah, this is interesting to see it from your viewpoint. I read the books first in college, I think, but immediately fell in love with Tombs more than the other 2. Actually, I didn't like any of them on the first reading, because I mistook them for something entirely different. But when I read them the second time for themselves, I loved Tombs most of all. For me the thing that was so awesome about it was the entirely natural and believable way the trust grew up between Ged and Tenar. When he said her real name again after all those years, it came with a shock of recognition. "Yes, I'm Tenar, I have my name back." You can feel Ged's power of calling, how fresh and new and real he is compared to everything Tenar knows, the dry, dusty, old, harsh, cruel powers of the place. It just feels true, all of it. Ged's different narrative of what the old powers are and what we owe to them, his understanding that they'd driven the other priestess mad over the years, all this made so much more sense, just clicked into place in my mind, than either Tenar's narrative that they should be worshiped or Kossil's (Thar's? -- I can never keep those two straight) that they were dead.

UKL's skill, I think, is in uncovering narratives that we all already knew, that both fit with and expand our deepest understanding of life, on the cellular level, even. She even describes the process like that, that characters come to her and tell her their stories, and she writes them, so that her work feels real in a way that no other fantasy besides Tolkien does to me.

If you like travel, sailing, and perhaps flying airplanes, you're going to love Nevil Shute! If you do try him, let me know what you think. =)

Robert I agree with your comments above about Ged and Tenar. It made me notice that in fact LeGuin has used the exposure of an individual brought up solely in one society, or stratum of society a number of times. Forgiveness Day and Powers are examples. (Forgiveness Day is available here: . Even more ironically, LeGuin pulls the reverse trick in The Other Wind, final Earthsea book.

Kossil is the High Priest of the Godking; Thar is the High Priestess of the God Brothers. It's Kossil you are thinking of. (Not that I'd have remembered if I hadn't so recently read Tombs.)

I heard a fabulous radio adaptation of On the Beach a few years back and bought the book in response, so at some point I will be trying Nevil Shute.

Tatiana Thanks, Kossil is right! I just read Tombs again myself, so I should have remembered.

On The Beach is very uncharacteristic of Shute, so it's odd that it is his most famous work. If you do pick up one of his books, please start with Round the Bend or one of the others I mentioned. There are some others that aren't nearly as good, so I want you to have a fair chance to love him.

I finished the other Earthsea books so quickly they're all mixed in my mind, so I'm not sure I will review them myself. I'll read your reviews and maybe comment on them there.

Robert When I work up the courage to carry's a daunting project for some reason.

Tatiana I find it hardest to write reviews of my favoritest books, because I fear to do them injustice, and cause someone who might see my review to think the book would not be worth reading. So I struggle greatly with these. Right now I'm reading The Telling, so I'll try to review it when I'm done.

Robert I think that is a big factor with me, too.

Nate Gatten What's funny is I find the female characters in this far more cruel then in the previous books. Even Arha has moments that make the reader pause. Still, it only shows how great le Guin is when it comes to character development. As well as great moral lessons about the perils of power.

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