Book Review: The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. Le Guin, Illustrated by Charles Vess

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. Le Guin, Illustrated by Charles Vess. Saga Press, 2018. 9781481465588. 992pp.

I have a British paperback that contains the first four Earthsea novels that’s tattered from both my wife and I rereading it, but we both love it so much we’ll never throw it away. This brick of a book contains not only those first four books (my favorite is either A Wizard of Earthsea or The Farthest Shore, whichever I’ve reread most recently) plus Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind, a few other related stories, and the text of a lecture Le Guin gave in 1992. Vess’ drawings bring the entire book to life for me in a new way, which is saying something as these books live in my head. Most of the illustrations are black and white, though there’s a color plate at the beginning of each book in this volume.

It’s worth noting that I’ve cheated — I’ve flipped through the book several times without reading straight through just to look at the pictures. I find myself wanting a Vess-style dragon tattoo (or one of Ged’s silhouette on Lookfar). My favorite drawing is of Ged sailing into the harbor to face the dragon of Pendor in the first book.

The binding seems extremely solid. While it’s heavy and probably a bit too unwieldy to read while standing on a bus or subway, it’s not too heavy to read while sitting. I still remember the effort it took to read the oversized two volume hardcover, The Complete Far Side. It was so worth the effort, but this book doesn’t require the logistics or the muscles of a book that big. (Every time I come across a used copy of The Complete Far Side I imagine that someone hurt their back, or thought they might.)

PS: Just last week I saw this in my local university bookstore for a fraction of the cover price, in the bargain books section. If you’ve been waiting to pick up a copy, now may be your best chance.

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One thought on “Book Review: The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition by Ursula K. Le Guin, Illustrated by Charles Vess”

  1. LauraRose says:

    Wow! Must get. We are in fact it entirely sure what happened to our beloved Earthsea books. Must have loaned them…. perfect gift for my husband who wants nothing these days but introduced me to Eathsea (and LeGuin!) when we started dating in the late 1980s. Thanks for bringing this to my attention !

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