Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin


tombs-of-atuan-coverThe final piece of the initial Earthsea trilogy, The Farthest Shore is a worthy and interesting conclusion to Ged’s tale – which his picked up in a later novel, but in terms of the original trilogy, this was the final instalment. It returns to Ged being a main part of the narrative and a main character that participates in the story from almost beginning to end, and introduces the character of Arren as a young man who accompanies Ged throughout an adventure to determine why the world of Earthsea is in the dire state that it is.

Le Guin perhaps embarks on her widest-reaching story yet, with the most bombast and travelling she has described in any work to date. It’s an interesting contrast with the previous piece, which was mostly claustrophobic, insular, dark and an entirely different tone from many of her other works. This is not to say that The Farthest Shore is exactly like A Wizard of Earthsea, but it’s much more oriented towards the adventurous tone of sailing about the world of Earthsea, with all of its dragons and magic. Despite all of this, Le Guin manages to keep The Farthest Shore different from the clichéd approach to swords and sorcery that plagues the great majority of fantasy writing. It’s still refreshing and interesting to read Le Guin’s approach to the idea of a world unlike ours, which still has all of the human narrative that makes fiction interesting.

This book seems like a melding of the two tones found in A Wizard of Earthsea and Tombs of Atuan – there is enough exploration and adventure from the first and darkness and intensity from the second to provide possibly the most interesting and compelling Earthsea adventure yet. Despite the use of two male main characters, there is still an element of femininity to the narrative and characterisation that prevents The Farthest Shore from taking the usual overly intellectual fantasy literature approach to plot, narrative and characterisation.

This work is easily worth a read, and is my personal favourite of the Earthsea trilogy. Its length is perfect, the conclusion is as interesting as anything Le Guin’s written and the tremendous amount of difference in Le Guin’s writing really makes itself known in this work. Definitely worth a look – find yourself a copy and have a read as soon as you can, after you read the previous books!