Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Book 2) - Ursula K. Le Guin

Title: The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Book 2)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1970
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“The Tombs of Atuan” is the second novel in Ursula K. Le Guin's classic YA fantasy series known as the Earthsea cycle. As with the first book in the series I found this novel to be okay but there was nothing that really wowed me within its pages. It did attempt to remedy one of the major issues I had with the first book in regards to trying to cram too much story into too few pages. However, this was done by cutting back the overall scope and adventure of the story rather than by trying to increase the page count which is a bit of a shame.

In regards to the story, it is based around a young priestess who was taken from her family as a child and brought up to serve the nameless ones as head priestess at the Tombs of Atuan. However, when an interloper breaks into the tombs, she finds herself unable to order his death as she should have. Instead, she speaks to the man, discovering he is a wizard from foreign lands and slowly but surely he helps her release the truth about the nameless ones she serves.

As mentioned earlier, the scope of this story is nothing like the epic tale told in the first novel and this has some positives and negatives. For example, it enables Le Guin to really delve into the characters and the world more, I really appreciated the way in which she spent time detailing and describing the places, people and culture around the tombs. However, the feeling of action and adventure was missing, it was much more claustrophobic and cerebral a story which was entertaining enough but it just wasn’t as much fun to read.

Another thing that I am also unsure about is the decision that Le Guin took to move the overall Earthsea story to a different place and viewpoint. Yes, it was an interesting and enjoyable attempt to further explore the world but I would also have enjoyed seeing more development in the life of Sparrowhawk himself. I felt that the relegation of him to a side character who appears in the latter half of the book made it a little bit more difficult to get into the novel than it needed to be.

Overall, it was an interesting and enjoyable enough story that really helped to build a more detailed picture of some aspects of Earthsea. What I would really love to see Le Guin do in in the future is merge this detailed look at characters and world alongside the epic and enjoyable adventure she showed us in the first Earthsea novel. I am going to keep working through the series because either way I am curious to know what type of novel she decided to create next.


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