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The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Series #2) [NOOK Book]


The Newbery Honor–winning second novel in the renowned Earthsea series from Ursula K. LeGuin.

In this second novel in the Earthsea series, Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, and everything is taken from her—home, family, possessions, even her name. She is now known only as Arha, the Eaten One, and guards the shadowy, ...
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The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Series #2)

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The Newbery Honor–winning second novel in the renowned Earthsea series from Ursula K. LeGuin.

In this second novel in the Earthsea series, Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, and everything is taken from her—home, family, possessions, even her name. She is now known only as Arha, the Eaten One, and guards the shadowy, labyrinthine Tombs of Atuan.

Then a wizard, Ged Sparrowhawk, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. Tenar’s duty is to protect the Ring, but Ged possesses the light of magic and tales of a world that Tenar has never known. Will Tenar risk everything to escape from the darkness that has become her domain?

With millions of copies sold worldwide, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle has earned a treasured place on the shelves of fantasy lovers everywhere, alongside the works of such beloved authors as J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Arha's isolated existence as high priestess in the tombs of Atuan is jarred by a thief who seeks a special treasure.

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Editorial Reviews

The Horn Book
"New and longtime Earthsea fans will be drawn to these impressive new editions."
From the Publisher
"New and longtime Earthsea fans will be drawn to these impressive new editions."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442480841
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/11/2012
  • Series: Earthsea Series , #2
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 29,854
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Ursula K.  Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most distinguished fantasy and science fiction writers of all time. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the National Book Award, and the Newbery Honor. She lives in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at


Speculative fiction, magic realism, "slipstream" fiction -- all these terms could apply to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin. Unfortunately, none was in common use when she started writing in the early 1960s. As a young writer, Le Guin weathered seven years of rejections from editors who praised her novels' elegant prose but were puzzled by their content. At a time when the only literary fiction was realistic fiction, as Le Guin later told an interviewer for The Register-Guard in Portland, Oregon, "There just wasn't a pigeonhole for what I write."

At long last, two of her stories were accepted for publication, one at a literary journal and one at a science-fiction magazine. The literary journal paid her in copies of the journal; the science-fiction magazine paid $30. She told The Register-Guard, "I thought: 'Oooohhh! They'll call what I write science fiction, will they? And they'll pay me for it? Well, here we go!' "

Le Guin continued to write and publish stories, but her breakthrough success came with the publication of The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969. The novel, which tells of a human ambassador's encounters with the gender-changing inhabitants of a distant planet, was unusual for science fiction in that it owed more to anthropology and sociology than to the hard sciences of physics or biology. The book was lauded for its intellectual and psychological depth, as well as for its fascinating premise. "What got to me was the quality of the story-telling," wrote Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. "She's taken the mythology, psychology -- the entire creative surround -- and woven it into a jewel of a story."

Since then, Le Guin has published many novels, several volumes of short stories, and numerous poems, essays, translations, and children's books. She's won an arm's-length list of awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and a National Book Award for The Farthest Shore. Over the years, she has created and sustained two fictional universes, populating each with dozens of characters and stories. The first universe, Ekumen, more or less fits into the science-fiction mode, with its aliens and interplanetary travel; the second, Earthsea, is a fantasy world, complete with wizards and dragons. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The New York Review of Books, "Either one would have been sufficient to establish Le Guin's reputation as a mistress of its genre; both together make one suspect that the writer has the benefit of arcane drugs or creative double-jointedness or ambidexterity."

More impressive still is the way Le Guin's books have garnered such tremendous crossover appeal. Unlike many writers of science fiction, she is regularly reviewed in mainstream publications, where her work has been praised by the likes of John Updike and Harold Bloom. But then, Le Guin has never fit comfortably into a single genre. As she said in a Science Fiction Weekly interview, "I know that I'm always called 'the sci-fi writer.' Everybody wants to stick me into that one box, while I really live in several boxes. It's probably hurt the sales of my realistic books like Searoad, because it tended to get stuck into science fiction, where browsing readers that didn't read science fiction would never see it."

Le Guin has also published a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a book that has influenced her life and writing since she was a teenager; she has translated fiction by Angelica Gorodischer and a volume of poems by Gabriela Mistral; and, perhaps most gratifyingly for her fans, she has returned to the imaginary realm of Earthsea. Tehanu, which appeared in 1990, was subtitled "The Last Book of Earthsea," but Le Guin found she had more to tell, and she continued with Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind. "I thought after 'Tehanu' the story was finished, but I was wrong," she told Salon interviewer Faith L. Justice. "I've learned never to say 'never.' "

Good To Know

The "K" in Ursula K. Le Guin stands for Le Guin's maiden name, Kroeber. Her father was the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber; her mother, the writer Theodora Kroeber, is best known for the biography Ishi in Two Worlds.

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    1. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 21, 1929
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

The Tombs of Atuan

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Pocket Books

Copyright © 2004 Ursula K. Le Guin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1416509623

Chapter One: The Eaten One

One high horn shrilled and ceased. The silence that followed was shaken only by the sound of many footsteps keeping time with a drum struck softly at a slow heart-pace. Through cracks in the roof of the Hall of the Throne, gaps between columns where a whole section of masonry and tile had collapsed, unsteady sunlight shone aslant. It was an hour after sunrise. The air was still and cold. Dead leaves of weeds that had forced up between marble pavement-tiles were outlined with frost, and crackled, catching on the long black robes of the priestesses.

They came, four by four, down the vast hall between double rows of columns. The drum beat dully. No voice spoke, no eye watched. Torches carried by black-clad girls burned reddish in the shafts of sunlight, brighter in the dusk between. Outside, on the steps of the Hall of the Throne, the men stood, guards, trumpeters, drummers; within the great doors only women had come, dark-robed and hooded, walking slowly four by four towards the empty throne.

Two came, tall women looming in their black, one of them thin and rigid, the other heavy, swaying with the planting of her feet. Between these two walked a child of about six. She wore a straight white shift. Her head and arms and legs were bare, and she was barefoot. She looked extremely small. At the foot of the steps leading up to the throne, where the others now waited in dark rows, the two tall women halted. They pushed the child forward a little.

The throne on its high platform seemed to be curtained on each side with great webs of blackness dropping from the gloom of the roof; whether these were curtains, or only denser shadows, the eye could not make certain. The throne itself was black, with a dull glimmer of precious stones or gold on the arms and back, and it was huge. A man sitting in it would have been dwarfed; it was not of human dimensions. It was empty. Nothing sat in it but shadows.

Alone, the child climbed up four of the seven steps of red-veined marble. They were so broad and high that she had to get both feet onto one step before attempting the next. On the middle step, directly in front of the throne, stood a large, rough block of wood, hollowed out on top. The child knelt on both knees and fitted her head into the hollow, turning it a little sideways. She knelt there without moving.

A figure in a belted gown of white wool stepped suddenly out of the shadows at the right of the throne and strode down the steps to the child. His face was masked with white. He held a sword of polished steel five feet long. Without word or hesitation he swung the sword, held in both hands, up over the little girl's neck. The drum stopped beating.

As the blade swung to its highest point and poised, a figure in black darted out from the left side of the throne, leapt down the stairs, and stayed the sacrificer's arms with slenderer arms. The sharp edge of the sword glittered in mid-air. So they balanced for a moment, the white figure and the black, both faceless, dancer-like above the motionless child whose white neck was bared by the parting of her black hair.

In silence each leapt aside and up the stairs again, vanishing in the darkness behind the enormous throne. A priestess came forward and poured out a bowl of liquid on the steps beside the kneeling child. The stain looked black in the dimness of the hall.

The child got up and descended the four stairs laboriously. When she stood at the bottom, the two tall priestesses put on her a black robe and hood and mantle, and turned her around again to face the steps, the dark stain, the throne.

"O let the Nameless Ones behold the girl given to them, who is verily the one born ever nameless. Let them accept her life and the years of her life until her death, which is also theirs. Let them find her acceptable. Let her be eaten!"

Other voices, shrill and harsh as trumpets, replied: "She is eaten! She is eaten!"

The little girl stood looking from under her black cowl up at the throne. The jewels inset in the huge clawed arms and the back were glazed with dust, and on the carven back were cobwebs and whitish stains of owl droppings. The three highest steps directly before the throne, above the step on which she had knelt, had never been climbed by mortal feet. They were so thick with dust that they looked like one slant of gray soil, the planes of the red-veined marble wholly hidden by the unstirred, untrodden siftings of how many years, how many centuries.

"She is eaten! She is eaten!"

Now the drum, abrupt, began to sound again, beating a quicker pace.

Silent and shuffling, the procession formed and moved away from the throne, eastward towards the bright, distant square of the doorway. On either side, the thin double columns, like the calves of immense pale legs, went up to the dusk under the ceiling. Among the priestesses, and now all in black like them, the child walked, her small bare feet treading solemnly over the frozen weeds, the icy stones. When sunlight slanting through the ruined roof flashed across her way, she did not look up.

Guards held the great doors wide. The black procession came out into the thin, cold light and wind of early morning. The sun dazzled, swimming above the eastern vastness. Westward, the mountains caught its yellow light, as did the facade of the Hall of the Throne. The other buildings, lower on the hill, still lay in purplish shadow, except for the Temple of the God-Brothers across the way on a little knoll: its roof, newly gilt, flashed the day back in glory. The black line of the priestesses, four by four, wound down the Hill of the Tombs, and as they went they began softly to chant. The tune was on three notes only, and the word that was repeated over and over was a word so old it had lost its meaning, like a signpost still standing when the road is gone. Over and over they chanted the empty word. All that day of the Remaking of the Priestess was filled with the low chanting of women's voices, a dry unceasing drone.

The little girl was taken from room to room, from temple to temple. In one place salt was placed upon her tongue; in another she knelt facing west while her hair was cut short and washed with oil and scented vinegar; in another she lay face down on a slab of black marble behind an altar while shrill voices sang a lament for the dead. Neither she nor any of the priestesses ate food or drank water all that day. As the evening star set, the little girl was put to bed, naked between sheepskin rugs, in a room she had never slept in before. It was in a house that had been locked for years, unlocked only that day. The room was higher than it was long, and had no windows. There was a dead smell in its, still and stale. The silent women left her there in the dark.

She held still, lying just as they had put her. Her eyes were wide open. She lay so for a long time.

She saw light shake on the high wall. Someone came quietly along the corridor, shielding a rushlight so it showed no more light than a firefly. A husky whisper: "Ho, are you there, Tenar?"

The child did not reply.

A head poked in the doorway, a strange head, hairless as a peeled potato, and of the same yellowish color. The eyes were like potato-eyes, brown and tiny. The nose was dwarfed by great, flat slabs of cheek, and the mouth was a lipless slit. The child stared unmoving at this face. Her eyes were large, dark, fixed.

"Ho, Tenar, my little honeycomb, there you are!" The voice was husky, high as a woman's voice but not a woman's voice. "I shouldn't be here, I belong outside the door, on the porch, that's where I go. But I had to see how my little Tenar is, after all the long day of it, eh, how's my poor little honeycomb?"

He moved towards her, noiseless and burly, and put out his hand as if to smooth back her hair.

"I am not Tenar any more," the child said, staring up at him. His hand stopped; he did not touch her.

"No," he said, after a moment, whispering. "I know. I know. Now you're the little Eaten One. But I-"

She said nothing.

"It was a hard day for a little one," the man said, shuffling the tiny light flickering in his big yellow hand.

"You should not be in this house, Manan."

"No. No. I know. I shouldn't be in this House. Well, good night, little one. Good night."

The child said nothing. Manan slowly turned around and went away. The glimmer died from the high cell walls. The little girl, who had no name any more but Ahra, the Eaten One, lay on her back looking steadily at the dark.

Copyright © 2004 by Ursula K. Le Guin


Excerpted from The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin Copyright © 2004 by Ursula K. Le Guin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 53 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2000

    a reviewer

    This book is a tale about a young girl named Tenar and her survival in the bleak and surturnine world of the Tombs of Atuan. However, the experinced mage named SparrowHawk/Ged goes there to try to find a lost art and to free Tenar from the groping madness of the ANCIENT ONES. I think that this has a mysterious plot because you never really know what will happen next in this story. I found this extremely satisfying and i recommend this for people 13 and over. I give this book FIVE STARS OUT OF FIVE.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009


    Wow, I wasn't expecting a story like this. The beginning doesn't relate at all to the previous book. I was thinking of returning it because I wasn't familiar with any of the characters. But the first book was so good, that I just continued to plow through. It was an interesting read I have to say. Not what I expected at all, which is a good thing from a critic's point of view. But to my disappointment none of the characters from the first book, except for Ged himself, make any second appearances. I was especially disappointed that Ogion didn't make a second appearance, he and Estarriol are my absolute favorites. But if your looking for an interesting read, this is the book your looking for.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2005

    Favorite book of all time!

    I loved this book. It's a beautiful love story and so much more. I read it before the Wizard of Earthsea and I think it made it even better.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2007

    Expecting more...

    After reading A Wizard of Earthsea, I was expecting much more out of this book. The story seemed to drag on and even became repetitive at times. All in all, you could skip this book entirely and still get the same enjoyment out of the following book (I¿ve read no farther).

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013



    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    Great book

    It starts off a little slow, but gets better when Ged comes into the story

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2013

    Slow to start

    This sequel to The Wizard of Earthsea took a while to get going. The first half or so almost feels like a summary of the main character's life up to the main portion of the story. The character, herself, is a little difficult to like until very near the end. Still, this second Earthsea book is just as beautifully written as the first. It feels less like a sequel and more like a seperate story in the same world with an appearence by the previous book's main character. You'll want to have read the first book before picking up this one, but you don't need to read then back-to-back like you do with a traditional fantasy series. Beautiful, just not quite as good as the first.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2013

    Book review

    I bought the book but it only gave me the sample , this outrageous

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2012

    Good Story, quick read

    The first book in the series was hard to get through, but I am glad I tried this second book. It was a good story and a quick read

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Quick and fun read

    While this is part of the Earthsea series, it is not as good as the rest of Earthsea and does not really have the same feel. I still enjoyed it as a short and fun beach read.

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  • Posted January 29, 2010

    Really Great

    This is an excellent book. It's 4 stars just because not every book is going to be Lord of the Rings. I think this book would mean much more to girls coming into adulthood, but every fan of fantasy should read this entire trilogy.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2009

    My favorite Earthsea book

    A rare early Le Guin book written entirely from a female point of view, this second installment of the Earthsea Cycle introduces a very different civilization. Tenar is a young priestess who was chosen from birth to serve the Nameless Ones. Ged comes looking for the ring of Erreth-Akbe and is captured by Tenar in the labyrinth; they must learn to trust each other and eventually he takes her away with him and gives her a new life in the Archipelago. Reading this for the first time as a teenage girl (and many times since) it was easy to identify with her confusion and loss of her own identity. There's a very subtle love affair between the two of them that can't become more as he is a celibate mage; she is much yoiunger but they meet as equals and develop trust in each other.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2007

    Surprising and fun.

    I have just begun reading the Earthsea series. I was surprised with The Tombs of Atuan because I thought the book would be more about Ged once again, but instead it revolved around a the Priestess of the Tombs, The Eaten One. Ged does make a grand appearance and we learn that he has aged many years since the first book. I thought this was all very surprising, I didn't expect it. But even though we don't hear of Ged until deep in the book, the story still wraps around him and our new heroine as they rescue a certain piece of treasure from the darkness. I am getting hooked on these books. I can't wait to read the next book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2007


    This is by far my favorite book in the series and maybe of all time. The tale is told with such simplicity and clarity yet sacrifices nothing because of this. The story develops slowly but this only helps one to better imagine all the details of the world in it. Le Guin is a master story teller. There is not one wasted word in this tale. Every word and every sentence is meaningful and I've never read anything from another author who can achieve this effect. Don't expect in your face action from this one. It would also help to read the first book in this series before this so that you know more about the character 'Ged' since this book doesn't tell you much about him.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2006

    kinda sad...

    ok dude.... i loved this story at gripped me my the neck and tugged me into a world of darkness and mystery.... i couldn't put it down.....but it started to get dull after some time. The only reason I was grazing the sides instead of fully getting into it was because there was no story line after 1/3 od the book or so.....especially since there was absolutely no chemistry between tenar and ged...i would have given the book a 5 it there just sorta fell apart.....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2006

    The Tombs of Atuan- Review

    It was a good book but I felt that many details could have been added and I never found a real exciting part in the book. I also have realized that in her books like Wizard of Earthsea you expect there to be a battle between him and his shadow but there is barely a discription of it, I felt the same way with this book (but don't get me wrong Wizard of Earthsea was pretty good).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2006

    it was ok.

    I have read alot of books in my life.The wizard of earthsea was one of my favorite books.A handsome young wizard with alot of potetial.And then i got the tombs of atuan.At first i thought that the book was going to be great, abeautiful young girl meating up with a handsome wizard(if you get what i mean.) but things didnt turn out that way, Ged was an old man,she was a young girl.and plus it wasent as adventurous as i had hoped.but it was still well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2006


    I was really looking forward to reading this series and i was really dissapointed. It came highly reccommended by many people, but when i finally finished this quick read it felt like the entire book had been a summary or an introduction. I spent the entire novel waiting for something to happen. Le Guin is too objective for my taste and I never feel like I can get to know the characters. I would only reccommend this to somebody if they were looking for a light read with no real emotional involvement.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2005


    This book wasn't amazing. But it was definately a read worth your while. I had a hard time getting into it. I felt like I was only grazing the surface and not really getting into the story. It was an interesting and different kind of read that I really enjoyed, though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2005

    I loved it

    This book is my favorite of the Earthsea trilogy. I read it once and thought it was good, but then for some isane reason read it again, and truly loved it. I have to admit that the first time I read this story I would not have deemed it worthy of five stars, but after thinking about the book when finished, it became incredible.

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