The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition

Review of The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition

Curling up in a cozy chair with great fantasy on a cold rainy day feels like heaven. I bought The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition as a special treat for myself because the stories of the wizard Ged working magic by knowing the names of things and sailing his world in search of answers was on my mind. More books added to the collection since I last read them.

The first book was written for teens. And it breaks the rules for its time. Our hero is brown-skinned, and dragons are complex wild beings who will talk to some people.

The journey is an exploration of the soul, not a war story.

One of LeGuin’s strengths is her ability to conjure the world of Earthsea in living color. Her characters are likable or interesting or twisted. And we get to know them as they untangle the mystery of what is destroying their world because of the damage that has been done with the misuse of magic.

The series develops complex ideas about life and death and continues to break rules by creating female heroes and exploring power, ingrained male supremacy, and our identity in relation to all this. In the later books, there are even elderly heroes! All characters are thoroughly explored. Same as well as God, Heaven, and Hell.

I enjoyed reading the essays included in Ursula’s process as a writer, and her response to interpretations of her work. It was inspiring to get in the head of a favorite author. And the ending of each book was made less painful by her lovely comments which followed them.

The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition is a beautifully illustrated book. Charles Vess worked closely with the author to realize her visions. It’s a big heavy collectors edition, a little awkward at times, but worth it for the wealth of enjoyment found within. 

I recommend this to the whole family!

I loved it as a teen, and as an adult found it even more riveting than before. It had me thinking deeply about our world, our roles, and personal power, and I emerged from the journey both wiser and more compassionate.