Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Tombs of Atuan

Ursula K LeGuin
Completed 11/3/2018, Reviewed 11/3/2018
4 stars

This is the second book in the Earthsea Cycle.  It’s a standalone novel, though Sparrowhawk from “A Wizard of Earthsea” is a major character.  Again, it’s beautifully written, and this time, there’s a female protagonist.  It again has a theme of good versus evil, but it is subtler in this book.  LeGuin writes subtle very well.  The book is short, the prose is tight and the characterization is really good. 

Tenar is a little girl who is taken at the age of five to be the reincarnation of the High Priestess to the gods of Atuan, the Nameless Ones.  She becomes the Eaten One, gaining a new name Arha.  Being taken at such an early age, she forgets her past life and learns the ways of being a priestess.  She does ritual dances, decides the fates of prisoners, is the sole heir to the catacombs beneath the temple which are guarded by the Nameless Ones.  One day she finds Sparrowhawk in the catacombs.  She locks him in, and reports this treasonous act.  Of course, it is she who must decide his fate.  For some reason, she decides not to kill him, but hides him there, slowly learning about the rest of the world.  Sparrowhawk asks Arha to leave with him, and she must decide if she will stay and let him die, or leave and learn a whole new way to live.

Arha is a wonderful character.  She starts out a simple child.  She is taken in by the priestesses where she learns her new role.  She slowly becomes indoctrinated into the order and becomes as corrupt and ruthless as the other priestesses.  But when Sparrowhawk shows up, she’s intrigued by him.  She slowly comes to realize the futility of her present situation.  It’s amazing how she has this metanoia so believably in such a short book.  It’s a tribute to LeGuin’s power with words and storytelling. 

I don’t have too much else to say about this book.  If I did, I would just be repeating myself from the previous book’s review.  It has the same style and tone.  I’m guessing the next book in the series will also be short, as it was written so quickly after this one.  I give the book four stars out of five. 

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