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#55 The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

As an infant, Tenar is singled out as the reincarnation of the Priestess Arha, the guardian of the Tombs of Atuan. Raised with full knowledge of the great responsibility that she will one day inherit, Tenar grows up haughty and proud. Then the wizard Ged arrives at the Tombs, seeking an ancient treasure known as the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. Ged soon becomes young Tenar's prisoner, his presence stirring seeds of doubt deep within Tenar, causing her to second guess everything she's been told about her destiny.

The Tombs of Atuan is the second book in The Eathsea Cycle. Although Ged, the protagonist from A Wizard of Earthsea, does play a large role in this novel, the real star of this book is Tenar. In many ways the Tombs of Atuan is a vastly different book than A Wizard of Earthsea, choosing to tell about female priestesses instead of male spell casters. There are no epic battles with dragons, and much less of an emphasis on traveling. At the same time, this book has much in common with it's predecessor. It tells of a proud adolescent finding her place in the world. Like Ged, Tenar must discover that there is much in the world that she is wrong about. Like Ged, she must also complete a journey to recover a lost piece of herself if she wishes to grow. I found that Tenar, although not always likable, was a very interesting protagonist that kept my attention from beginning to end of this novel.

Admittedly, I didn't like this novel quite as much as I enjoyed A Wizard of Earthsea. I couldn't help be a little disappointed at first when I discovered that Ged, who I enjoyed so much from the first novel, was not going to play such a large role. In fact, he doesn't make an appearance in this book until the reader is already a third into it. At times, I kind of wish that Tenar was a stronger character, but then I remembered how young she was, which put things more intro perspective. It didn't help that I rarely had any time to just sit down and read this novel, meaning that much of it was consumed in rushed fifteen minute periods. Despite this, I found it to be a satisfying second novel. I liked the fact that we got to see more female characters, where A Wizard of Earthsea was so male centric, as well as the fact that we got to learn more about a different race. I also thought it was interesting that the book was about such a classic fantasy trope (questing after a mythical object), but instead chose to emphasize the more human tale, then the quest itself. The book was incredibly short, but I felt as if it didn't need to be any longer. I am curious to see where Le Guin will be taking these characters next and am looking forward to reading the third book, The Farthest Shore.

Rating: four stars
Length: 180 pages
Source: paperbackswap
Challenge: This book is part of the 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge, and the Summer of Series Challenge
Other books I've read by this author:  A Wizard of Earthsea (my review)

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