This is the story of Tenar, who is said to be a priestess reborn. As a result, she is taken from her family at a young age and brought up in a temple complex, taught to be the mistress and guardian of the Undertomb and Labyrinth. No-one else is allowed in all the dark places, on pain of death. Many come to try and steal the legendary treasures – and are killed, usually by starvation or worse. Tenar is the vessel of that destruction, who is also aware of her precarious but powerful position as it relates to the two priestesses of the other gods.
And then one day, there is light in the Undertomb, where all light is forbidden. It is carried by a man, where men are forbidden. Tenar traps him in the labyrinth, and watches him through spy holes while she decides how to have him killed. But she can’t help being fascinated by the stranger even as he begins to starve. And so an unlikely alliance is formed.
This world of darkness and priestly politics is fascinating, and the two central characters are eminently watchable. I tend to get annoyed by fantasy books that are filled with intrigue (mostly because I can never remember all the names) so the simple elegance of Tenar’s situation is completely compelling.
Free sample (when, at the age of six, Tenar has taken up her role as the reincarnated priestess):
The child said nothing. Manan turned around and went away. The glimmer died from the high cell walls. The little girl, who had no name any more but Arha, the Eaten One, lay on her back looking steadily at the dark.
Rating: G, and recommended for any age that likes reading.