Review: The Tombs of Atuan (The Earthsea Quartet) by Ursula K.Le Guin

They do not die. They are dark and undying, and they hate the light: the brief, bright light of our mortality. They are immortal, but they are not gods. They never were.

If you follow me on any of my social medias or even have seen my most recent posts here on the blog, then you may know that I am holding myself accountable for finishing some series I started. This review is my first finished book of that I will be doing as part of that. I read A Wizard of Earthsea earlier this year and absolutely loved it. But what about the follow up book?

When young Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, everything is taken away – home, family, possessions, even her name. For she is now Arha, the Eaten One, guardian of the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

While she is learning her way through the dark labyrinth, a young wizard, Ged, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic, and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain

This is certainly a change in direction from the first novel in the series. For a start we have a new protagonist and we are on a totally different part of the archipelago of Earthsea. We have moved to the culture of the Kargish people, those who keep the Tombs Atuan. Our protagonist, Tenar, is taken to the tombs at age 5 and is made High Priestess to the Nameless Ones, being renamed ‘Arha’ (meaning ‘eaten one’) as part of the duty.

I thouroughly enjoyed seeing this side of the islands. Considering the Kargish people are a race of people with white skin and are seen as ‘savages’ by the Hardic folk for their religious theocracy and their distaste of reading and writing, it made for interesting worldbuilding. The atmosphere as always is perfect in Le Guin’s worlds. You really feel the isolation that Tenar faces here and the struggle of maintaining the duty that you were given while being expected to just know how to do the job.

While A Wizard of Earthsea functioned as a coming of age story for Ged, and we watched him grow from the impulsive spirited apprentice he was, to the powerful mage Sparrowhawk, we get a similar situation here with Tenar. Tenar is renamed Arha at the age of 5 when she taken away from her parents. The Kargish believing that the same High Priestess lives, dies and born again to serve the Nameless Ones. Tenar as a result is constantly struggling between her belief in the Nameless Ones and how she is proud to serve them to the endless questioning of what lies out there.

Her eventual meeting with Ged is genuinely some of the best moments in the book. You see Tenar confronted with everything she has been conditioned to believe is barbaric and wrong. She has to fight against this belief that her Nameless Ones she serves so well didn’t step in to stop this evil mage. She genuinely struggles and battles against it showing the clear signs of trauma someone indoctrinated might go through. Ged is wonderfully patient and helpful with her, guiding her to eventually use the power she has wielded all these years to learn what she truly wants.

The plot was a little tricky here since I never realised although Ged is a character in all the Earthsea books, each one takes place years apart from the last and he isn’t the main character in any of the other books. Tenar did grow on me and I did love her story as it went on but to start with it was a little jarring and had me a little lost to begin with so maybe take that on board if you are going to read these.

I am quite happy I chose to start my TBR projct with this series first. Ursula K Le Guin is honestly one of my favourite writers and I wish I had read Earthsea sooner. I have found it vastly comforting since my break up with JKR and trying to distance myself from Harry Potter for a while. Thanks for checking in folks! happy reading!

★★★★/5

5 Comforting Fantasy Books

Once again, I do apologise for the silence on here. This time, it wasn’t actually anything to do with lockdowns or anything like that, I was just fucking busy. Working from home or not, still busy when it is busy. This week do go a little faster than past ones though so for that I am grateful.

Last week saw a lot of people really liking my list of Immersive SFF so I’m going to try and keep the ball rolling here with a list of comforting fantasy books. I hope to have a scifi one too but this week I wanted to focus on fantasy. These are some books that made me feel that little bit better in darker times, and I want to share them with you too in case you need that kind of comfort right now. So here we go;

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern:

This is not an underhyped book. This is for sure a book that is very popular while being on its way to be being a modern classic. It is however based on totally valid reviews since this book is wonderful. Its atmospheric while also being very easy to read. There is such a warm feeling with this book that makes reading feel so cozy and you feel like you are part of the circus followers. I know that is vague but I would recommend checking this out for some cuddly feels.

Wild Magic/ The Immortals Quartet by Tamora Pierce:

I am a die hard of Tamora Pierce’s work since my read of this entire series since last year. This is a wonderful series that is very easy to get through with books that aren’t too long but what makes it so comforting to me is Daine and her relationship with animals. As an animal lover and a vegetarian the fact there is someone giving a shit about the animals and has magic based entirely on connecting with them made me feel so safe and happy. The conflict is also not really that scary or very heavy so definitely a good read for people who want fantasy with a low threat.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman:

Did you really think I would put a list together that DIDN’T have Neil Gaiman on it? I read this book many years ago and was a teenager with chronic anxiety when I did. This book changed my reading taste forever but also gave me a lot of comfort in a time when I couldn’t find it anywhere. I honestly think its the fact this boy is just cared for by the dead far better than the living and that they intend to keep him safe no matter what. Also has a nice spooky feel to it for the horror lovers out there.

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury:

This is a book I met first as a very distant memory of the movie that would show every Halloween on Cartoon Network. I read the book as part of a worldwide readalong in 2018 and I was crying by the end with sheer joy. This is another one with great atmosphere while also capturing that feeling off veing a child on Halloween without being really nostalgically sad. The plot moves really quickly as well so it is also great for anyone who is in need of a focussed book too right now. I might be biased but the movie is also still wonderful if you can find it!

Uprooted by Naomi Novik:

Funnily enough, I very rarely talk about this book. I’m not sure why. This book is a wonderful example of how well standalone fantasy can work while also being very heartwarming in the face of genuine peril. There is such an emphasis in this book on the value of friendship, of family and not giving up in the face of adversity. I would highly recommend this book for it’s beautiful writing. There is so much rich magic and adventure happening here that I feel like I need to reread it right now. A must read as well for fans of elemental or nature magic.

I’ll try an do another list like this for some scifi recs as well. I am aware I didn’t put either Harry Potter or Discworld on this list as well but I think we all know how much I love those already and I think everyone returns to Hogwarts at some stage for that feeling of home.

What are your comforting fantasy books? What books would you at to the list? Feel free to share them below and most of all, happy reading to you all!