Book Review: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin


Synopsis: Book Two of the Earthsea Cycle takes us to the Place of the Tombs, where young Tenar has been taken to serve as High Priestess of the Nameless Ones. With her name changed to Arha, she serves the Nameless Ones faithfully until one day she comes across a wizard in the Tombs.

Review: This is Book Two of the Earthsea Cycle, and I absolutely loved Book One, A Wizard of Earthsea, (read my review of that one here). I did enjoy The Tombs of Atuan as well, not as much, and this book is definitely more of a slow burn. There is really not a whole lot of plot to this book, and it has a very creepy vibe to it.

The main character of this story is Arha (true name Tenar) who has been taken from her family at a young age, and forced to serve as High Priestess of the Nameless Ones. She is believed to be the High Priestess reincarnated (she was born at the same moment the previous Priestess died), so she can’t really ever leave her position.

One of the places where only she can go is called The Labyrinth of the Tombs of Atuan, an underground maze that has different rooms – one is called the Room of Chains, another the Room of Bones, and there is also a treasure room. The Labyrinth is really a character of its own. Its halls are dark, its twists and turns can kill you. Arha must always be aware of where she is lest she get lost and die in the tunnels. The tunnels just creeped me out something fierce. Down in the tunnels (where most of the book takes place) is where the Nameless Ones live, and that is where the Priestesses would take their prisoners and sacrifice them to the gods. So, you’ve got the creepy factor of it being a place where many have died, some terribly, and also the dark, and it’s a maze. Plus those gods are there and are looking for you. I don’t recommend this book to anyone who is claustrophobic or if you are afraid of the dark.  Le Guin’s writing draws you in and traps you down in the tombs, and she succeeds at the hint of something dangerous being just around the bend.

One day Arha sees a man in the Undertomb, where supposedly no man can go. And it isn’t just any man, but a wizard – yep! It’s Ged, from the first book. Once Arha sees Ged, the action really picks up and I couldn’t put the book down at that point. Does Arha trap Ged in the Labyrinth to die? Does she save him? Does she escape The Place of the Tombs? You’ll have to read the book to find out – it is truly a fascinating and creepy (not scary) tale. The cover of my copy also had an eerie vibe to it (pictured above). Just something about that face … eeek !!  It seemed to always be watching me.

Bottom Line: A wonderful, creepy book, which takes a bit to get into. I’m really enjoying this series and looking forward to Book Three, The Farthest Shore.


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