I have absolutely no doubt that The Folio Society does everything in their power to make the most beautiful books imaginable. Case in point: Their recent editions of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
It’s rare that I actually gasp when I open a package here at SF Signal HQ…but these babies never cease to amaze me. I mean, I love reading eBooks at much as the next guy, but I still find value in holding a physical book. It’s a tactile experience that just cannot be matched by smartphones, kindles, nooks, iPads, or whatever other device you read from. And, if you must know, I’m a “Books are Valuable Objects” kind of person, and in that regard, these new Folio editions are just as stunning as their editions of Dune, The Martian Chronicles, and The Man in the High Castle. (Yes, these are high-end editions — perfect for special gifts that rise above all others — but for those looking for something a little less spendy, Folio is releasing a series of editions called Folio Collectables in flexible, soft cover bindings.)
Like all Folio editions, these are high-quality books built to last. Both arrived in sturdy, plastic-wrapped slipcases. The books themselves feel hefty for their size and are just a pleasure to hold. (See previous note about “Books are Valuable Objects”.) Each book includes multiple illustrations by artists with unique styles befitting the story.
Don’t believe me? Check out some art samples below. And stop drooling all over the books!
The story, set in 1832 in ‘a period of English history that never happened’, is filled with the things that beguile young readers: strong friendship, fearsome creatures, thrilling train rides, mysterious hidden tunnels, curious foodstuffs, and moments of bravery and wit. The wolves that stalk the land are unnaturally fierce, as are the sinister adults – Miss Slighcarp and her accomplices – that the girls must overcome. It is impossible not to feel affection for Aiken’s two small heroines, one boisterous, loving and fearless; the other a delicate and thoughtful worrier. Memorable too is Simon, Bonnie’s resourceful cave-dwelling friend, who Rundell aptly describes as ‘The Secret Garden’s Dickon, crossed with Robin Hood’.
Aiken took her vocation seriously, once declaring: ‘The greatest sin against children is to write books for them according to formula. That is as bad as selling them … shoes that are going to let in the wet.’ It is a sin that Aiken never committed; many would agree with Rundell when she describes The Wolves of Willoughby Chase as ‘the best piece of children’s adventure storytelling of its period’.
- Introduced by Katherine Rundell
- Illustrated by Bill Bragg
- Bound in metallic buckram, blocked with a design by Bill Bragg
- Set in Perpetua
- 208 pages
- 18 integrated mono illustrations
- Printed endpapers
- 9″ x 5¾”
[Images by Bill Bragg for The Folio Society edition of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase © 2015]
‘Once in that court he had felt himself to be a word spoken by the sunlight. Now the darkness also had spoken: a word that could not be unsaid’
On the island of Roke, Ged, a boy sorcerer learning the high arts of wizardry, falls victim to his own pride and vanity and accidentally releases a terrible shadow into the world. Binding itself to Ged, the shadow-beast destroys all hope of peace for the young mage until he can master it by gaining that greatest of powers: knowledge of the shadow’s true name.
Ursula K. Le Guin’s lyrical tale of magic, morality and identity is also a stirring adventure story. Ged battles the Dragon of Pendor, uses weatherworking to propel himself across the Inmost Sea, summons fog and werelights, and transforms himself into a hawk with a Spell of Change. It is a story that thrums with its own mythology, as beautiful and as real as any ancient tale. As Hari Kunzru writes in the Guardian, Le Guin’s writing ‘walks towards reality, not away from it’ – like all the great works of fantasy.
- Introduced by David Mitchell
- Illustrated by David Lupton
- Bound in buckram, printed and blocked with a design by David Lupton
- Set in Garamond with Dulcinea Serif display
- 232 pages
- Frontispiece and 6 colour illustrations
- Printed endpapers
- 9″ x 5¾”
[Images by David Lupton for The Folio Society edition of A Wizard of Earthsea © 2015]