The Complete Earthsea, illustrated

Via, I see that Saga is bringing out a one-volume omnibus of LeGuin’s Earthsea books, with illustrations.

In case you don’t remember (I had to look this up), that includes:

A Wizard of Earthsea

The Tombs of Atuan

The Farthest Shore


The Other Wind

Tales from Earthsea

In fact, I only ever read the first two (as far as I remember). I liked A Wizard of Earthsea, but I think I also found parts of it boring or confusing — I was pretty young. I loved The Tombs of Atuan and re-read that one several times, so I remember it a lot better. It’s been a while, though. And for whatever reason — the vagaries of the library system, probably — that’s it.

I don’t know, what do you all think of the rest of the Earthsea books? I really like the idea of an illustrated omnibus!

Here’s a sketch of the wraparound cover art, by Charles Vess, who has evidently worked closely with LeGuin to make sure the illustrations look like what she had in her head.

Click through if you’d like to see images and sketches for the interior illustrations.

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10 thoughts on “The Complete Earthsea, illustrated”

  1. I liked the original trilogy and go through phases of ‘she didn’t write any others’ (like the 5th Fortress book I prefer to forget). I really ought to reread the later ones and see if they still offend me.

    My issues are with the worldbuilding. Certain things are established in the original books. Later she realized those features had problems and went back and retrofitted issues and fixes. But if the problems had existed for the first books, major parts wouldn’t work at all – Roke, itself, for instance. So…. it’s really hard to read those later books with my backbrain going ‘but that makes Wizard impossible. Or wtte, it’s been a few years. I remember the sensation, though!

    I’ve enjoyed some of the short stories. Overall, I’d recommend trying from libraries or KU, if that’s an option (haven’t checked).

    I showed The Teen the dragon sketches when some were posted on Book View Cafe yesterday. She critiqued the structure. I thought they were good, but wasn’t looking at them as actual critters who need to fight gravity.

  2. It’s often wise to consider that dragons are magical creatures that disregard physics. This allows you to consider their artistic merit without getting bogged down in details.

    Although you know what offends me deeply? Giant insects. You just cannot blow up an insect to the size of a tank and have that work. So I guess we all have something that makes us grumpy.

    Thanks for your comments about the Earthsea series!

  3. I loved Wizard, even though it was a boys’ world and I was a girl, loved The Tombs of Atuan even more, and was (still am) ambivalent about The Farthest Shore: it starts splendidly –the first glimpse of Arren!– but then gets mired in all the afterlife stuff that goes on and on and on. Tehanu made me so angry (because of the preachiness and the obvious retconning) that I’ve never been able to reread them; perhaps I should. I read a couple of short stories which I liked but don’t really remember, and didn’t dare try The Other Wind because I thought it might be as bad as or worse than Tehanu.

  4. My experience echoes Irina’s. The first two books are amazing. The third is good, but maybe not amazing good. I read Tehanu years later and found it supremely annoying. I’ve toyed with the idea of re-reading it, but there’s so many new, unread books to try. If I’ve ever read any of the short stories, I’ve forgotten them.

  5. Thanks for your comments! I’m thinking maybe there is no pressing need for me to read Tehanu.

  6. I’m pretty sure we all read the first three back in the day, when the shelves weren’t overstocked with fantasy. I never felt the urge to go on with Tehanu, and the comments here aren’t making me reconsider that.

  7. Allan Shampine

    I remember nothing about Tehanu except being really annoyed with it, so I will certainly not urge you to revisit it.

    On the insects and dragons, I go back and forth on this. I remember reading Operation Chaos and how shapeshifters conform to the law of conservation of mass, so a werewolf can’t weigh more than the human. It’s all fantastic, so at one level, as long as the rules are made clear and followed, I’ll let the writer specify things the way they want. However, there’s something to be said for sticking pretty close to actual physics because we are all familiar with Newtonian physics and it’s easier on the author and the reader. Less explanation required. So if the writer wants to take that route, then it matters if dragons could plausibly fly, and how they manage to do it. But it’s dangerous when the author doesn’t know that much about the topic and inadvertently creates inconsistencies. I think that’s what annoys many readers – like with the insects. The author may think they are sticking pretty close to physics and biology without realizing just how badly they’re violating both.

  8. It’s funny to me, because (1) changing into a wolf is, you know, *magic*; but (2) conservation of mass because physics!

    I can’t take physics seriously in this context. That’s why black dogs can shift form fast, painlessly, and conserving their clothing. I mean, if it’s magic anyway …

  9. Honestly, I loved all of LeGuin’s Earthsea books. They are all worth reading several times in my not so humble opinion. Mainly because of the tone, and despite the existence of dragons and magic in Earthsea, there is a distinct lack of reliance on Tolkienesque fantasy tropes. Even the magic itself feels fresh and approachable. The conflicts feel both epic and personal at the same time. I didn’t notice any inconsistencies between the “original trilogy” and the newer books, but I wasn’t really looking for them.

  10. LeGuin is a wonderful writer. But I did prefer the narrower, more intimate, less epic story in The Tombs of Atuan to the others.

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