Sunday, June 24, 2012

49. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

One of the luxuries of being so far ahead with my 50 books reading is that now I can take a bit of time and actually read some series.  Now the Earthsea trilogy in its entirety probably has fewer pages than a single Game of Thrones or Harry Potter book, but hey it is three distinct books.

The second one, The Tombs of Atuan, is a direct continuation of the first, but you don't realize it at first.  It's the story of a young priestess, chosen by the elders at the age of four and taken away from her family.  The entire first half of the book is following this young girl as she slowly learns about what her roles and responsibilities will be.  She also learns about the politics of power that surround her and the ancient and secretive architecture of the temple and its ruins, most interestingly of this is the labyrinth, where no light is allowed to be lit.

This is another amazing book.  I think I would argue that this book is superior to the first one.  Personally, though I enjoyed the first one more.  But structurally, The Tombs of Atuan is like a diamond with a universe inside it.  We get to slowly explore the tombs with the priestess and our own alliance grows with her awareness of her potential power.  The focus on this limited world allows Le Guin to very subtly talk about power and politics, religion and society and how one reacts to a fundamental change in perspective and belief.  But in her craftsmanship, none of this gets in the way of the story, which keeps you turning the pages.  This is part of Le Guin's genius, her absolute commitment to a great story, while somehow delivering big ideas and making you think.

The second part of this book is where it connects to the first book.  SPOILERS (though this is spoiled on the fucking back cover, for god's sake).  Ged, or Sparrowhawk, whose origin is detailed in A Wizard of Earthsea shows up in the labyrinth, searching for a lost artifact of great power.  Here he and the priestess clash and develop a most interesting relationship.  Like in the first book, the trial for Ged is a slow, deteriorating one of his stamina against the constant pressure of the thing he is fighting against.  It gets gloomy, but the priestess and her own internal conflict (between her beliefs and the outer world this thief-wizard represents) keeps the book very lively, right up to the end.

My only dissatisfaction was that the denouement was all too brief.  I wish we could have spent some time with the characters after the adventure is over.  Perhaps that shows up in some of the later books or short stories that take place in the Earthsea.  Basically, another masterpiece.

No comments: