Thoughtful Thursday: Don’t judge a book by its cover

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsSome cover art does a remarkably good job of describing the story. For example, take a look at the cover for A. Lee Martinez‘s Divine Misfortune. You take one look at that cover, and what do you think?  This is a story about a poor mortal getting punched by a god. Judging from the synopsis, that sounds like it is exactly what happens in the story. I also think I am going to have to read this book, because any story featuring a raccoon god of prosperity who enjoys couch surfing sounds like an interesting premise to me.fantasy and science fiction book reviews

Other cover art doesn’t do nearly as good of a job at conveying important information. Lilith Saintcrow‘s Steelflower has a cover which makes you think it’s another entry in the urban fantasy parade of butt-kicking females. Wrong. It is classic sword and sorcery fun, with elves and barbarians. This is a book that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own, because I typically don’t read urban fantasy. I would have missed a great fun read if I hadn’t volunteered to read it to help out one of the other reviewers.

And then you have the covers that are so bizarre or bad that we have contests to rename them. Like this lovely cover for Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson‘s The Gathering Storm. (Warning, put down your drink before you click on that link or you may snort beverage out your nose and all over your keyboard when you read the suggested titles.)

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsSo, dear readers, the challenge I put to you is threefold: Link to the best cover art for describing a story, the worst cover art for describing the story, or the most bizarre cover art you would like to fantasy and science fiction book reviewssee us re-title in a future post. Those first two you may have to describe why it is particularly good or bad. The third option should speak for itself.  And feel free to do all three if the mood moves you.

You have a week to make your suggestions, and then we’ll pick a winner who will receive a copy of Misty Massey‘s Mad Kestrel, a fun piratical fantasy with cover art to match. Or, if that doesn’t float your boat, we’ll let you pick one out of our stacks.

FOLLOW:  Facebooktwitterrssmail  SHARE:  Facebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail
You can subscribe to our posts via email, email digest, browser notifications, Twitter, RSS, etc. You can filter by tag (e.g. Giveaway), keyword, author. We won't give your email address to anyone. Subscribe.

RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

View all posts by


  1. I enjoy Jessica Day George’s newest book covers:
    and also her upcoming Princess of Glass. They’re lovely dresses that make you think of princesses, so work. They dont’ quite explain the plot, but I’m ok with that. AND they’re cute reads.
    The covers for the Hunger Games series? Not so great. Maybe you could rename those, because they’re pathetic. The one for Fire, by Kristin Cashore? (The UK edition, that is…) is fabulous.

  2. So I have just read most of David Gemmell’s book and loved the Drenai series. One thing I liked about most of these books was the how the cover matched the story. One of my favorite books and covers was for ‘Druss the Legend’ When I picked up this book, I knew I was going to read a story about a guy with a ridiculous big axe (seriously look at that thing) that is going to kick some ass. From his face, you can tell that he is neither reluctant or scared about taking on all opponents. And he protects the ladies.

    Of course, then there is this other cover for Legend, where Druss is carrying a sword. So disappointing and misleading….

  3. Right off the top of my head, I always loved the Mary GrandPre covers for the Harry Potter books. They were full of “spoilers” from the climactic scene, but they didn’t make any sense till you actually read the scene! So they revealed chunks of the plot, but not really. :thumb:

  4. My favorite cover art by far is the Conan illustrations by Frazetta. Frazetta seemed to have a real connection to REH’s Conan, and his work revitalized those stories. They are so raw and alive that they give off energy. I think they can go so far as to stir a primordial fear or thrill.

  5. I tend to love Luis Royo covers, and not just because I’m a huge fan. I’ve rarely encountered a cover of his where the characters didn’t look as I’d imagined they would based on descriptions of them. One thing I can’t stand is a cover where the character shown looks not even the slightest bit like they’re supposed to.

    Also, I love the covers for Kristen Britain’s Green Rider books. They’re well done, have good, eye-catching motion, and overall capture the feel of her world very well.

    On the other hand, poor Lynn Flewelling. At least with the first three Nightrunner books the art, while not very good, reflected the content. But the Tamir Triad art is a wreck, the artist can’t even draw a horse properly. And the covers for the newer Nightrunner books, the characters look accurate but nothing else about them seems to have anything to do with the books.

  6. I’m also a Royo fan, Beth. Has anyone noticed in the latest music videos by Rhianna, how they look like Royo paintings? I also thought that the Chronicals of Riddick movie looked heavily influenced by Royo.

  7. Oh, that Steelflower cover is BAD! It’s funny how HORRIBLE covers can be when publishers know how much they affect a readers decision as to whether or not to read a book.

  8. Well, the original cover art for Bimbos of the Death Sun proves in some way the very point of the back story in that it has no bearing whatsoever on anything to do with the plot (See also the Kindle version). Interestingly the more “modern” cover is equally random and uninformative.

    The covers of the Hero series by Moira Moore, have gone through an interesting progression. The title, cover and description of the first book Resenting the Hero make it sound like a bit of a slapstick parody, which it most definitely is not (not to say it doesn’t have humor, but neither the cover nor jacket description capture the tone). Based on this cover you’d think the woman was the servant, which is most definitely not true.

    The second book, The Hero Strikes Back, has a more neutral cover. Things get really amusing when you reach the third book, Heroes Adrift: note that virtually none of the book actually takes place on a boat on the covers are now switching to a much more romance-themed style, even though the books are not romances.

    The fourth and fifth book covers, Heroes at Risk and Heroes Returned are at least amusing in that the actual powers of the two characters are not in any way, shape or form, visible to the eye and are more of a distantly-psychic nature.

    I’ve always been particularly fond of the early Tolkien covers (e.g., The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring), but then, they were painted by J.R.R. himself.

  9. I did NOT know that Tolkien painted those covers — thanks!

  10. I thought the cover here for odaleique really captured the feel of the fantasy world that is like an old persia with elements of fantasy, and a nice work of art too.

    I really didn’t like Carol Berg’s new novel cover, because it looks a lot moe like a romance type cover to me, the art is nice, but it has nothing to do with the court intrigue type fantasy story. And hat’s with the skull??

  11. @Mike

    The cover of Heroes At Risk has one major problem. Take a good close look. How on earth is he supposed to draw his sword? XD

    I’m kind of curious as to why Lee is suddenly a curly-haired blond on the cover of Heroes Return…


    I think overall you can jump on the Dislike of The Spirit Lens Cover Train over here. None of us cared for it. Maybe that’s one we should re-title.

  12. Yeah, that Spirit Lens cover: Is he the hero? He looks greasy.

  13. @Amanda – I would pick up Odalisque based on that cover, too.

    @Beth – Skip drawing his sword – where are his legs? And I think the Spirit Lens cover is crying out for a re-title, too.

    Oh, Kaaaaat, can we retitle, Spirit Lens? Pretty please?

  14. Sure! Why don’t we have a regular feature that goes something like this:
    Once/month the Thoughtful Thurs will be a renaming cover art post. Two books are given away: One for best renaming (winner gets featured book or picks from stack), one for best suggestion of the book to rename next month (winner picks from stack). Good idea? Other suggestions?

  15. Anonymous /

    I hate the new McKinley covers. The stylized horse covers have nothing to do with the stories of The Blue Sword or The Hero and the Crown. They are redoing all the covers, and the only one I’ve seen so far that might go with the story is the Sherwood one.

    I do like the artwork for Patricia McKillip by Kinuko Y Craft. It’s what made me pick up the books and check them out. Prior to that I’d never really wanted to read her.

    The cover for Mythago Wood by Larry Rostant is really well done as well.

  16. I totally agree on the McKinley books. I am so glad I have my old copies of The Blue Sword and Hero and the Crown. The new ones are disastrous.

  17. This is one of the most hilarious covers I’ve ever seen, but actually perfectly describes the situation – Heinlein’s Glory Road.


  18. Our lucky winner is……Seak

    Please contact Justin within 5 days.


  1. uberVU - social comments - Social comments and analytics for this post... This post was mentioned on Twitter by MelLHay: RT @FanLit Thoughtful Thursday: Don't…

Review this book and/or Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *