Title: The Tombs of Atuan
Author: Ursula K. LeGuin
Series: Earthsea Cycle, #2
While in many ways The Tombs of Atuan deals with some of the issues I have with A Wizard of Earthsea, I've never liked it quite as much. I think the themes it deals with just don't speak to me as clearly. However, it's a wonderful book, deserving of many a read-through.
Even Ursula K. LeGuin admits that it's a fault of A Wizard of Earthsea that it's such a male-centric hero's journey, even if it's not the most stereotypical hero's journey for that time. In The Tombs of Atuan, we actually deal with a bit of an opposite situation, where the world is more feminine-dominated.
Ged does make an appearance in this novel, but he's not the one holding the power. Instead, it's Arha/Tenar who saves him and continually gets to call the shots. In fact, a good portion of the book is her life beforehand, which is surrounded by women. And the women aren't all the same; we don't fall into the dynamic before where the women were either powerless or evil. Stern, traditional, and set in ways, maybe, but not evil in the way they were in A Wizard of Earthsea.
The over-arching theme of the book is that freedom is something that you can't be given. Arha/Tenar has to find it within herself to be free, even after Ged has given back her name. And while I can appreciate that theme, and do like it, it just doesn't speak to me in the same way like I said. There's something about A Wizard of Earthsea that has meant so much to me since I was a child that it's hard to live up to it.
The prose is still beautiful, of course. It felt different in some way that's hard for me to put my finger on. It was less rhapsodic, even though it was still gorgeous.