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Book Review

Book Cover

The Tombs of Atuan
(Folio Society Hardback)


Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Illustrations: David Lupton
Publisher: The Folio Society
184 pages
RRP: £44.95
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Publication Date: Available now

The London Folio Society releases The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. Le Guin, originally published in 1971 - the latest in a long line of quality hardback book reprints. It is book two in the acclaimed Earthsea Cycle, following A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), which has also be republished by the Folio Society. The book is bound in printed and blocked cloth, and set in Garamond with Ducinea Serif as display. There are 184 pages, and seven full-page colour illustrations (both on the cover and spaced throughout the book) by David Lupton. In addition there are printed map endpapers, and it is present in a heavy duty plain slipcase.

In The Tombs of Atuan, the High Priestess of the Nameless ones, Arha, dies in her present body. But she has lived on in previous forms, so a search is carried-out for a female child born the moment of the priestesses death. The girl is identified and taken when she is five years old to be retrained in her duties. She soon comes into conflict with the Priestess of the God Kings. Solace comes with exploring the labyrinths of the Nameless ones in complete darkness. However, she is shocked to find a forbidden man searching for a lost artifact in the tombs, and he might just be a wizard.

The Tombs of Atuan is, lengthwise, more of a novella than a fully-fledged novel. It would certainly have had significantly more of an impact at the time of its release in the concept days of fantasy – before the popular mass market sword & sorcery of the 1980s – than it might today. The concept is good and taut, with the pressure of Arha’s role bearing down on her young soul, and the darkness, uncertainty and prospective danger of the tombs creating a claustrophobic atmosphere. However, I will say that although the character Ged had already been established in A Wizard of Earthsea, there is insufficient happening in this volume to sustain the length by today’s standards.

The presentation of this Folio edition, however, is a different matter. It is exquisitely produced, with artwork genuinely fitting for the prose style. These publications are becoming well-sought after, and this will look good on anyone’s bookshelf alongside other releases such as Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Pierre Boulle’s Planet of the Apes.


Ty Power

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