Ever wake up in the morning and there’s a cat in your tea cupboard? Somewhere between 5:30 and 6, somewhere between waking and dreaming, and all you want is a cup of jasmine tea. Then you hear a slight rustling and a quiet meow, and Mr. Sinatra delicately steps passed the tins and infusers to look you in the eye as if to say, “Why, human?”
So here we are, another Tuesday, another Top Ten. This week is all about cover redesigns. As anyone who reads knows, covers can be hit or miss. Sometimes a beautiful cover hides a disappointing story *coughWatchmakerofFiligreeStreetcough*, and sometimes a less then stellar cover conceals the greatest of tales, like Red, White & Royal Blue.
This was especially true in the seventies and eighties, when stock art seemed to be rampant and all of it was incredibly dated and horrid. Lurid images of swarthy white guys with veiny muscles and women in literal ripped bodices aside, we’ve now moved into an era of lurid pinks with poorly written titles scrawled across the front, but I digress. I don’t usually read that sort of stuff anyway…
*brandishes her wireless mouse* Come with me, if you dare…
Howls Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones: On the left, a beautiful cover invoking classic fairy tale art with rich colors and great atmosphere. On the right, the book I own. It’s fine, I guess. Except the castle looks silly and small and Sophie doesn’t look capable of marching far enough to get into the hills, let alone pursue said castle. I know she’s determined, but no amount of determination matters when your legs are a fifth the size of your body, trust me, I know.
Beauty, by Robin McKinley: On the left is the book I originally checked out from my local library as a kid. Who is this dark haired stranger? Surely not the mousy haired heroine of our story. What is this yellow rose she’s holding? She seems to be at Beast’s castle, where rose picking is strictly forbidden and really, it’s what got her into this mess to begin with. The right cover is the one I currently own, and it is much more acceptable in it’s vagueness. It makes me think of the roses that grew from the seeds Beauty was gifted, which is perfect, because that’s a thing that actually happens in the stories.
Magician: Apprentice, by Raymond E. Feist: Oh dear, neither of these are really winners, are they? But I think it’s safe to say the cover on the left is by far the worst. Sure I have no idea what’s happening with the right cover, but the left… I guess we’re to assume that this is Kulgan and Pug? Except Pug looks about seven or eight years too old and Kulgan looks like a Russian shaman. And where are they? Is that supposed to be the coast of Crydee? What is Pug holding? Why does he have a sword? Why is it hanging off his leg like that? WHAT’S GOING ON? And let’s not even get into the hair, except let’s- because that shit is crazy. Scream ’80’s at me a little louder, please, I beg you. I couldn’t hear you over the sound of all these feathered locks in my ears.
The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle: OK, so I tricked you on this one, because neither of these covers are bad. The one on the right is the one I read growing up, and haha would you look at that, it’s got a Rothfuss quote on the cover. Little did my childhood self know she’d be angrily reading his work in the distant future. It’s a cool design, makes me think of parchment and velum and the unicorn is sort of aggressive and awesome looking. BUT- the cover on the left is superior because, one) it looks like the unicorn from the 1982’s Japanese adaptation. And two) purple flowering vines. Need I say more? I didn’t think so. But I will, because the left cover just invokes the atmosphere of the story better; melancholy, magical, and wistful, all at once.
The Magician’s Nephew, by C. S. Lewis: On the left we see the book I read from the school library. Showing Jadis looking like the badass she is, probably just waking up from her centuries long power nap and ready to conquer entire countries, if not worlds. She’s so cool! No one puts the antagonists on the cover, but when your protagonists are two grubby English school children and a cabby with a Cockney accent, why not put the incredibly powerful, attractive, and evil Jadis front and center? The right cover is the one I currently own, and have since… second grade? Let’s not talk about how long ago that was. But I mean… look at Cedric! That face is a vague idea of a face, not a real, defined face. It’s a face from a fever dream, and that garden is super boring. Couldn’t have even jazzed up the lawn or the walls a little? Just a bit?
The Grey King, by Susan Cooper: OK, this is one of those rare times where I actually prefer the 80’s/70’s art over what they’ve done with the new stuff. The cover on the right is pretty darn epic and Welsh, though on second thought, those may be the same things. But the swans, mist, and cloaked figures all summon a sense of myth and magic. The one on the left? Um… it’s… brown? And gold? And I get what they’re doing with the harp, but… why didn’t we go for Will and Bran facing a mountain? People love books with two guys in a subtext heavy friendship, why not lay it out for them? Or lean hard into how Welsh the story is and give us an image of that stunning country? But, no sure, brown. Great. Yawn. No, it’s not boring at all, it’s fine. IT’S FINE.
Wild Magic, by Tamora Pierce: OK, what happened here? On the left we see my book cover, which I love. We’ve got Numair in hawk form, the badger claw necklace, The Badger God, Cloud, and all the other ponies Daine’s helping to take to Tortall at the beginning of the story. There’s also a fox; who knows why he’s here, he probably just invited himself along because- foxes. But I love the hazy sky and trees and the wildflowers in the grass and Daine’s smoky brown curls and the fact she’s riding bareback. It’s like the artist read the story! The cover on the right? Well… has the artist ever seen a badger before? What are those paws doing? Why is it’s nose so huge? Is it a European Badger? An American Badger? Am I thinking about this too much? Don’t answer that.
Kraken, by China Mieville: So, our left cover is just… so bad. Why purple? And a vague, medicinal, chewed-on-bubblegum sort of purple at that. And I know Mieville is supposed to be this edgy, bad-boy, punk rock writer, like Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore had a love child who didn’t want hair. But did we have to print his name using a grunge-like font that looks more like a Steven King cover from the early nineties then it does an urban fantasy about the end of the world and cultists. The cover on the right is much nicer; elegant, mysterious, the “tentacles” coming off the text leading the eye down into the darkest corner of the water, implying what’s to come in the narrative. Gorgeous, subtle, good.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss: I don’t care that the cover on the right is probably more thematically fitting for the story. It looks like someone was thinking this was a story about a girl that they had to market towards men and the best way they could think of doing that was to make it one) blue and two) boring. Sure I don’t know what’s going on with the plants around Auri on the left, but I like that she’s there, in front of the moon, with her white hair and her mystery. And I think the left cover just invokes the feeling of the story better, with it’s light and shadow, and the promise of magic therein.
There it is folks, hope you enjoyed. I need to feed myself and I don’t want to. Good luck with your day, may it be shiny and rad, like a hologram.