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Publisher's Summary

Years before, they had escaped together from the sinister Tombs of Atuan - she an isolated young priestess, he a powerful wizard. Now she is a farmer's widow, having chosen for herself the simple pleasures of an ordinary life. And he is a broken old man, mourning the powers lost to him not by choice.

A lifetime ago they helped each other at a time of darkness and danger. Now they must join forces again to help another - the physically and emotionally scarred child whose own destiny remains to be revealed.

©1990 Ursula K. Le Guin (P)2016 Recorded Books

What listeners say about Tehanu

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very good story

loved it; the book is a fantastic sequel to the first three. not as "epic" in terms of might and magic, but equally as good as books two and three (the first one wasn't my favorite)

1 person found this helpful

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Stick to the Original Trilogy

This book is extremely well-written. Ursula K. LeGuin is a legitimate wordsmith - not a single syllable is wasted in 'Tehanu', and her prose is unsurpassed. Descriptions are mind's-eye vivid, dialogue is powerful & philosophical, and characters are complex & fascinating.

That said, I have some problems with this book:
1.  Leguin went into the project with a fixed agenda:
As outlined in the Afterword of this audiobook, the author expressly returned to an essentially completed Fantasy series after twenty years to take down the 'Fantasy Patriarchy' paradigm. The book suffers for it. Elevating female characters is fine - and it's refreshing - but Leguin decides to politicize Earthsea by portraying the male Wizards (both Good and Evil) as misogynists.
2. The book abandons any semblance of "plot":
Instead, LeGuin focusses on the reintroduction of well-known characters Ged and Tenar (in magic-free scenarios) to develop them. Don't get me wrong.. it works. We get to know those characters much better - but nothing of any real importance happens and nothing is really resolved in 'Tehanu'.
3. The introduction of adult topics into a supposed children's series is fairly shocking:
The original Earthsea series was clearly aimed at an audience accustomed to J.R.R. Tolkien's singing dwarves and C.S. Lewis's talking animals. Discussing menstruation and intercourse is straight-up incongruous.

On the good side of the ledger, the world-building is top-notch. We get a close-up look at the more mundane aspects of the Archipelago (Farmers, Shepherds, Soldiers, Sailors, and travelling Merchants play large roles in this narrative). The Earthsea setting is enriched by this book.

I must admit I miss Rob Inglis's interpretation somewhat, but Jenny Sterlin does an impressive job reading this book. There is a noticeable throat-click due to poor sound editing, but Sterlin's voice-acting is unparalleled (a disfigured Therru sounds tortured, for example), and tone/timbre/cadence are noteworthy. Furthermore, her pacing is spot-on - driving a beautifully-written (but arguably ponderous) story relentlessly to it's conclusion. I would listen to Sterlin again any day.

Despite above-average narration, this is a moderately disappointing return to a beloved Fantasy world - a world populated with kings, dragons, witches and wizards - but intentionally steered away from those aspects. LeGuin instead focusses her book on feminist objectives, personality conflict, and the day-to-day lives of the "normal" denizens of the Earthsea Archipelago. You are justified in spending a Credit on this 4.5/10 book if you are enamored with the characters and setting (or plan on continuing the series), but you might be better served if you quit after book Three. I'm quitting here.

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different but good

very different approach than the first three books, this one focuses on character growth and more about the social structures of earth sea. I'm glad there is a book about the flaws of a fantastical land, as opposed to other epic fantasy books that don't adress how flawed the land is.
also very refreshing to see a character who for the previous three books was painted in a very pure light, exposed for also being very flawed and emotionally stunted.
a vital book for anyone looking for an elaboration of characters.

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  • JA
  • 2017-08-30

Delivers on Promise of Tenar and the Tombs

Only a misogynist or someone who heard excerpts could misread this book as feminist preaching. Round characters, beautiful sentences, and a fantastic reader, to boot!

14 people found this helpful

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  • Aseretk
  • 2019-09-12

Rare and gifted narrator

I do not wish to write a review of this book, because it is a favorite of mine, told in Ursula Le Guin’s spare beautiful way. The characters are more precious to me now that I, like them, are also older. What I most want to comment on is how amazing narrator, Jenny Sterlin is as she gives voice to each character and how easy her voice tells this story. It is rare for me to love a narrator from the start, in fact if the material of a book isn’t interested a poorly chosen narrator can ruin the experience. High marks for Ms Sterlin. I hope she continues to narrate many other audio books.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Alan
  • 2019-10-09

Beautiful but Mundane

Very well-written, and Le Guin (as always) has a knack for making rounded and believable characters. However, unlike the previous books, Tehanu is light on plot. As the author admits in the postscript, Tehanu’s focus is on the ordinary lives of ordinary people, on finding grace in the mundane.

Unfortunately, experiencing the mundane lives of ordinary people is not why most people (myself included) read fantasy novels. The stakes weren’t high enough, the fantasy element wasn’t strong enough, and the plot plodded. I gave 3/5 stars out of respect for Le Guin’s writing, but (compared to its predecessors) Tehanu was a bit of a disappointment.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew
  • 2019-08-27

Le Guin is incredible

really interesting change in perspective after the last three. this book challenges each character fundamentally, as well as the world and culture of earthsea, as well as our own world in what it shares with earthsea. it took a more difficult but ultimately rewarding path, and i have nothing but respect and awe for the author.

some developments do seem convenient or heavy-handed, but they are still effective and don't get in the way of the engaging emotional journeys of the characters - which i see as the main exploration of the book.

the performance was also fantastic.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Reynaldo Garcia
  • 2016-12-26

Different, in a good way.

I really enjoyed this one. A far different type of tale, but just as grand in its own way. Recommend.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Peter
  • 2018-05-29

Like a hot coal

Ursula le guin takes on a new perspective, that of the “powerless”- the women, children, and laymen of earthsea. This book is like a hot coal- it burns with anger, trauma, injustice, and beauty. It deserves to be studied and to be reread over and over.


The narrator did a fabulous job of harnessing tenar’s voice.


4 people found this helpful

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  • Hilary Hontz
  • 2016-08-03

An excellent story and a brilliant telling.

Tehanu is a critical and introspective look at female intuition and the expectations society can so often impose, knowingly or unknowingly, upon the wife, mother, sister, and daughter.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Michael G.
  • 2019-12-07

A beautiful story

It wasn't what I was expecting, but I love it all the more for that.

I really love her stories.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Lee
  • 2017-11-06

Least favorite book of the series

This book has to be my least favorite of the series. A little too much feminism for me. Why didn't she make her female characters stronger in the previous books, instead of making the men all weak and insecure. I don't even know if I want to read the last book if it's going to be the same.. There are strong female characters in many great book series without displacing the men. (Mistborn, The wheel of time, Stormlight Archives, Outlander, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, Hunger Games, Harry Potter...)

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2021-08-21

underappreciated!

Many who love the original Earthsea trilogy will complain that Tehanu feels out of place, on-the-nose feminist, and not as grand or exciting as the first three volumes. I understand where they're coming from, but frankly would say it's from a place of light sexism and underappreciation for the complexity that Le Guin is weaving into her characters and world here! Earthsea as portrayed in the first three volumes IS overtly patriarchal --- women are property of fathers and husbands, witches are considered less savory members of society even as their magical adept is demanded by their villages, and women are not permitted to study at the magical institute on Roke and become fully respected users of magic, as wizards are. Being a series written by a woman, with compelling female characters, and taking up in Tehanu where her characters, her readers, and Le Guin herself are older and more thoughtful than in the earlier volumes, it's no wonder that the nature of society, magic, and culture of Earthsea are being examined through Tenar's eyes. Not to mention there are explorations of broader issues of sex, aging, abuse, duty, and sense of selfhood that readers in the real world can relate to. Le Guin truly deepens the beloved characters of Ged and Tenar in realistic, unidealistic ways, ultimately giving them a tenuous but hopeful future. At the same time, the lore deepens intriguingly with Tehanu, Kalessin, and the dragon-people, leading into The Other Wind nicely. Give it a chance -- if you're a woman you may identify with the feelings of duty, self-actualization, and frustration, and if you're a man you can learn a thing or two from it.

1 person found this helpful