Le Guin’s books are like the little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead, and this one is not very, very good. It uses her old trick of demonising something she disagrees with (in this case, organised religion) to set up the plot conflict. As with that unfortunate run of books where her male characters were capable of evil, but her female ones were never worse than misguided, she has substituted paper tigers and dogmatic thinking for serious character development. It is a waste of a good background and a previously invisible bit of her future history. Even her usual luminous prose cannot save The Telling.