Earthsea Compleat

Next year, Saga Press will publish all six of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea novels in one volume, to mark the 50th anniversary of the fantasy series. The Books of Earthsea will be the first fully illustrated edition, with the cover and both colour and black-and-white interior illustrations (including chapter headings, full-page illustrations, and smaller pictures) by Charles Vess. On her blog ( Ursula K LeGuin reveals that she’s excited about working with Charles Vess, but a little nervous when Charles sends her a preliminary sketch of a dragon:

It is an excellent dragon. But it isn’t an Earthsea dragon.


Well . . . an Earthsea dragon wouldn’t have this, see? but it would have that . . . And the tail isn’t exactly right, and about those bristly things —

So I send Charles an email full of whines and niggles and what-if-you-trieds-such-and-suches. I realize how inadequate are my attempts to describe in words the fierce and beautiful being I see so clearly.

Brief pause.

The dragon reappears. Now it looks more like an Earthsea dragon.

But still, it wouldn’t have this here, but it would have something there . . . And about its eye . . . And about those bristly things, you know, don’t they make it very male? and dragon gender is really mysterious . . . .

And so on — more nitpicking, more whimpering, more what-ifs and inadequate efforts to describe.

Patient as Job, grimy with graphite, Charles responds with further dragons, ever more graceful and powerful, ever closer to my heart’s desire . . . and his too, I hope.

Vess has published some sketches on his facebook site:, including the wrap-around coverearthsea-wraparound-vess