The Tombs of Atuan

The Tombs of AtuanA Wizard of Earthsea is my favorite fantasy book, not written by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was only a matter of time before I read the sequel, The Tombs of Atuan. I went into the book cautiously because I’d heard that the narrative changed the protagonist and took a while to get going. While this is true, the new female protagonist, Tenar, is just as interesting as the last, Ged. Ursula K. Le Guin manages to tell a tale that feels like the other side of A Wizard of Earthsea’s coin. Each book follows a young protagonist finding their place in the world and coming to terms with their own agency and identity. Ged’s journey is about confronting his own potential evil, while Tenar’s is about confronting her own potential good. She’s raised as a priestess of the Nameless Ones, gods who demand sacrifice and darkness. Early in the novel, Tenar accepts the religion that kidnapped her without hesitation and is empowered to decide the fate of trespassers. She’s haunted by her decision through most of the novel. When Ged, the protagonist from the first Earthsea novel, is trapped and at her mercy, she must confront the lies of her religion and the lies she’s told herself. Tenar is a character sheltered by her way of life, and her struggle to confront that way of life is the crux of the novel. Ultimately, The Tombs of Atuan is just as entertaining, enlightening, and powerful as A Wizard of Earthsea. I can’t wait to read the next installment, The Farthest Shore.

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