Some of the artwork featured in the link. “Fifty years ago, science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin released A Wizard of Earthsea, the first installment of a well-lauded and influential fantasy series. Sadly, Le Guin passed away in January, but later this year, one of her final projects will be released. One that, after years of frustrations, has been a long time coming: a collected edition of her Earthsea works from Saga Press, The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition, featuring nearly 60 illustrations by fantasy artist Charles Vess.
There have been some special editions of A Wizard of Earthsea before, like the stunning Folio Society edition that came out a couple of years ago. But this edition will be the first time that Le Guin’s sprawling epic, heretofore known collectively as the Earthsea Cycle, will be collected in one place. The Books of Earthsea contains all five novels, as well as Tales From Earthsea, a collection of short stories set in the world, and Earthsea Revisioned: A Lecture at Oxford University. It’ll be a massive tome, weighing in at just over a thousand pages.
Le Guin was particularly concerned that the book’s central characters were depicted accurately as people of color. “Up until that time [when the book was first published], every fantasy epic ever was full of the blond-haired, blue-eyed male heroes.” Le Guin’s father was a noted anthropologist, and as a young child, she had traveled around the world with him. “She knew about the world out there, and she wanted to put that in her book.”
Monti says that she told him that her “collaboration with Charles was ‘magic’,” and that he essentially made the decision to leave them alone to work on their own to depict the world that she had for so long not seen depicted. “One of the things I’ve learned in illustration is, the better the writing you work with, the better your art will be,” Vess explains. “It will pull things out of you that you never thought you had.”
Though Le Guin will unfortunately never see the final version of the book, she did see the final illustrations before she died in January. “And now,” she wrote in the introduction to the book, “with this first fully illustrated complete Earthsea, I can let Charles Vess’s art speak for itself.”
The Books of Earthsea will hit stores on October 23rd, 2018.”