The Folio Society makes high-end collector’s editions of classic works of literature. Their latest is a stunningly beautiful two-volume edition of A Clash of Kings, the second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.
That. Is. Purty.
The Folio Society has already done a collector’s edition of A Game of Thrones, the first book in Martin’s series. Why are these books ripe for reprinting? “The culmination of the television series of Game of Thrones marked a new level of passion and commitment in its fans, but it also took many thousands back to Martin’s books,” publishing director Tom Walker told The Verge. “It was clear that we needed to bring our own commitment to classic sci-fi and fantasy right up to date. Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire are dedicated by nature. The Folio Society can now reward their dedication by bringing them the most perfectly realized editions of the books they so admire — editions that they will be able to hand down through generations.”
This new edition has plenty of extras, including endpapers printed with house sigils, eight family trees and “The Kings and their Courts” features detailing the many, many players in this story. But the star are the illustrations by artist Jonathan Burton, who also worked on the collector’s edition of A Game of Thrones. There are six full-page illustrations and two double-page spreads in each of the two volumes that make up the set.
“As I’ve spoken about before, I am coming to these novels completely cold having not seen the TV series, so I was excited to see what happens to these characters,” Burton told Tor.com. “I was constantly surprised by the unfolding events and I had a few jaw dropping moments including Melisandre’s true nature and what happens to Renly. The new character of Brienne is a gift. My favorite is Arya with her feisty yet innocent character constantly up against the most monstrous and manipulative.”
Burton got to choose which scenes to illustrate himself, although everything was approved by George R.R. Martin’s team, which also advised The Folio Society on which scenes to avoid illustrating lest this new edition be too similar to other special editions already out there. So there were some limits, but it still left Burton with a whole lot to work with.
“[T]he mounting up of political intrigue is great for the story but isn’t visually evocative,” he said. “My ‘presence’ in these editions is limited so I want to choose things that are dynamic and include some of the more iconic moments from the whole story. Fortunately, there are plenty of plot points where I can show these characters in interesting ways that steer away from the political conversations.”
For his part, Burton was particularly excited to illustrate Renly’s death and Arya facing down Jaqen H’ghar and the other prisoners in the wagon while she’s traveling with the Night’s Watch. “I really like how her expression is one of defiance against their antagonizing threats.”
One interesting thing Burton does when approaching the illustrations is to use color palettes for each character. For example, Arya Stark gets depicted with earthy tones, Jon gets a lot of black and white, while Sansa is illustrated with lush greens and reds.
“It’s a conscience decision to differentiate between worlds,” Burton said. “[F]or example I love the contrast between the sisters of Sansa’s ‘romantic’ view of the world and Arya’s gruesome reality. I think Sansa suits a Pre-Raphaelite romanticism, always believing she will be rescued by a handsome knight no matter how grim her circumstances. Arya in contrast is down in the dirt and drawn much more harshly.”
So far, the response to Burton’s work from fans has been encouraging. “I’ve had some very encouraging feedback from fans which I’m thrilled about as I try very hard to be loyal to the text and the characters,” he said. “My conversations with fans show that they appreciate the differences to other interpretations including the TV show.”
In addition to the illustrations, Burton also developed unique narrator motifs that printed in gold and black ink at the top of every chapter.
If they keep making these, they’re going to need a lot of those motifs by the time they’re done with A Dance of Dragons.
If you’d like to order your own A Clash of Kings special edition, head to The Folio Society’s website. At $195, it doesn’t come cheap, but as you can see, the quality is pretty impressive.