‘The Tombs of Atuan’ is the follow up to A Wizard of Earthsea and the second book from the Earthsea series. In this story, we mainly follow a young girl who is taken away from her family at a very age and is made to be the High Priestess of the Nameless ones called Arha. She is taught many things and made to do many horrors in order to keep the order alive. Yet because this is all she knows, she fears escaping but when an intruder is found in the Tombs of Atuan, Arha is intrigued by the intruder and unknowingly changes her fate.
For those not in the know, the Earthsea Trilogy (now a quartet) is a series written by Ursula Le Guin often found in the children’s sections of the library and bookstores. It has a huge fan base in Japan perhaps even more so than in America. Anime, movies and toys have been made of Earthsea and it is this series that Ursula Le Guin is most famous for.
While Tombs of Atuan’s pace and setting is a lot different than A Wizard of Earthsea, I found that I enjoyed the book a lot more. Much like a good horror novel, it is suspense that drives this book forward. The Tombs of Atuan is a place where no light can be emitted because that would anger the Nameless Gods. So we follow Arha, blinded and feeling around with our hands and knees; one false turn, one misremembered turn and Arha is trapped with the Tombs forever, along with the corpses of slaves and the treasures hidden in a room below the Tombs of Atuan.
If you have read A Wizard of Earthsea before, be warned Ged is not the main character and really takes a backseat. I think this is very clever by Le Guin. Not only does it add an extra dimension to the overall story, stopping the book from being about powerful magics but is also self contained and can be read without reading A Wizard of Earthsea.
The most pleasing aspect of this book besides the suspense was the start and the ending. Right at the beginning you are thrust into action where a little girl is about to have her head chopped off. The end is a juicy cliffhanger. However, if there is something bad to say about this book, it is that it is too short. There could have been more depth in the character Arha and more about the order of The Nameless Ones. But that is probably my adult fantasy background talking.