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Giants (1979)

The third and final installment in David Larkin’s series fantasy field guides after Gnomes and Faeries is Giants (1979), which features art from Julek Heller, Carolyn Scrace and Juan Wijngaard. Larkin gets credit here for “devising” the book, while Sarah Teale gets credit for the text. I am not sure how that breaks down in practice, but it sure feels like Larkin had the most to do with the direction of this book.

Faeries is really the solid gold hit of the series, endlessly fascinating, extremely varied. Gnomes feels expressly designed to capitalize on eddies of folkiness in 70s pop culture. Compared to them, Giants feels a bit one note and a bit in search of a vibe. When it boils down, it is essentially a book about very large people. It often plays to that core truth effectively, but it never feels so singular as the other two books, if that makes sense.

Partly that might just be that there are too many folks involved. Where Gnomes is one artistic vision and Faeries and elegant duet, the trio here never quite finds its harmonies. All three deliver stellar work, but rarely does that work collaborate with its neighbors in the way Lee and Froud play off each other. Giants are hard, too, because without markers for scale, they just look like people doing stuff, but if every painting has markers for scale, it gets repetitive. Both of these pitfalls are on view here. One can’t help but wonder why they didn’t do dragons instead.

Which isn’t to say this book isn’t worth getting! It totally is. Put it right on the shelf with the other two, your other Alan Lee books and your copies of the Time Life Enchanted World series. It is certainly a key part of the fantasy art renaissance of the 70s and 80s. Sure, it doesn’t measure up to Faeries. But where else are you going to find a whole book on Giants? They just don’t make ‘em like this any more. (OK, not entirely true — Johan Egerkrans is bringing this sort of thing back with his books Vaesen, Norse Gods and The Undead — thank goodness!).

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