Karen Haber Reviews A Middle-earth Traveler by John Howe

A Middle-earth Traveler: Sketches from Bag End to Mordor, John Howe (HMH 978-1-328-55751-3, $28.00, 193pp, hc) October 2018. Cover by John Howe.

Just when you thought another high quality tie-in book to the Tolkien Universe wasn’t possible, A Middle-earth Traveler shows up. This attractive volume, with wrap-around cover art, offers glossy paper stock, sewn-in binding, and first-rate image reproduction of the well-featured art, especially the linework. This is a traveler’s sketchbook ranging through the lands that J.R.R. Tolkien evoked in The Lord of the Rings. As such, it’s jam-packed with sketches, many full-page, some two-page spreads as Howe takes the reader on a walking tour of Middle-earth, a place he knows very well indeed. Howe’s written observations provide a sense of immediacy to the trip. He includes commentary on his experi­ence working with Peter Jackson on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. The book features his con­cept work for the films and Middle-earth artwork he has painted and sketched in the past, as well as new paintings and sketches. Especially interesting are the architectural sketches and creature studies, but all of the work here is first-rate.

The sepia and black-and-white linework is beau­tifully reproduced, while the occasional full-color art fares a little less well, looking dark and murky with a few exceptions

Howe’s ease and familiarity with subject in­creases the realistic treatment of these images. He lures the reader beyond the familiar locales visited in the books and movies into unfamiliar territory. Excellent production values provide a luxurious gift-book feel. Tolkien fans will especially enjoy this well-produced, respectful volume.

This review and more like it in the March 2019 issue of Locus.

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