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The Tombs of Atuan - Ursula K. Le Guin I'm re-reading the whole of UKL's work now, starting with the Earthsea cycle. I've read this one many times, for it's my favorite. It begins with a brief chapter showing Tenar's mother's love and her father's grief that she will be taken by the Priestesses to become the new One Priestess who was reborn on the night the old one died. UKL has such a great touch with these things. Firelight and blonde hair and loving arms are what we see.

Then a section about Tenar's life among the novices, eunuchs, and Priestesses of the Place. It's severe with few joys. Black homespun robes, the clear desert air, the dust and mouse bones of the long years. We see how her name was taken away and she was given to the power of the dark. Rituals. Work. A few pleasures: fishing in the river in summer, the guards playing at betting games with sticks. Girls' hijinx. Petty jealousies, rivalries. Sameness.

Then into her world comes Ged. We see him in the second person now, as he appears to Arha, the One Priestess, the Eaten One. She smells a fresh smell of sage about his clothes. His face is brown, he makes a little werelight with his staff. He's a wizard, a mage, a man of power. Always his simplicity and honesty, his humility and power they draw her to him. He's so alive, so real. UKL really makes us feel how she is called to him. When he calls her by name "Tenar", it comes like a shock. She has her name back.

She comes to the catastrophe, to the moment of choice, and she chooses freedom and light over the old powers of darkness which she has served. Ged tells her a new narrative, a new way to understand life, a new meaning. She sees that her life up to then has largely been wasted. She is converted.

The new life of freedom is shown, how it is both grander and more mysterious than she knew. The mage, the man of great power curled up asleep in the desert with a little thistle by his hand. That image will stick with me forever. They go on to sail to Havenor, bringing the rune of peace and power, the Ring of Erreth-Akba rejoined. But for her there is also rage and grieving because of her new life, her freedom. It is far harder than she realized to be free.

All of it is told so well. I hope nobody reads this synopsis until after they read the book. It happens just like life, in episodes, in small observations, until the whole distills upon us after much thought. It's a lovely book. UKL is a master.