Thoughtful Thursday: Judging Books by Their Covers

We here at Fantasy Literature have a tradition of poking fun at cover art. I thought I would change that up a today and show some truly great cover art. These are my personal favorites. I have listed 6 covers, and the reasons I like them. I would like for you to link to your own favorite covers in the comments below. Use the the info bar at the top the page to access the authors and their books. Our favorite cover from the comments will get their pick from the stacks. Here we go…

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. Cover art by ??

I like this cover because it does such a great job of setting your expectations for what awaits you inside. Abercrombie paints a violent and bloody world between these covers, and this design does a great job conveying that.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPilgrimage to Hell by Jack Adrian. Cover art by Michael Herring

I’ve always liked this cover, even before I read the book. This post-apocalyptic romp is a bit on the cheesy side of things, but you wouldn’t guess that by the cover. The meanings you can draw from the dirty boots, barren soil, and sprigs of daisies are innumerable. My understanding is that it’s simply a portrait of contrasts. In the hardest of times there can still be beauty, now let’s go blow up some cannibals…. or something like that.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Cover art by Jon Sullivan

Simply stunning. Jon Sullivan is amazing. I would give a lot to get my hands on a large printing of this piece. All of Jon’s stuff is gorgeous, and this cover is a great example what he is capable of. The beauty, the metal, and the blood. All of it combines to give you a portrait of a lady who has a history of violence. 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart by Jesse Bullington. Cover art by Istvan Orosz

Istvan Orosz is a well known Hungarian artist. He is often compared to M.C. Escher and the comparison is quite valid. Orosz’s complex image within an image  is a a great way to give you a hint at what is in the book, which is mostly death.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn. Cover art by Chris McGrath

Chris McGrath is a modern Fantasy art legend. His covers are everywhere. There is so much of his work that I like and I chose this one simply because it adorns one of my favorite books. Dresden Files fans are also very familiar with Chris’ work. His depiction of Harry Dresden is the image I see in my mind’s eye while reading the books. Chris has amazing talent, and we’ll be seeing his work for a very long time.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Hounds of Avalon by Mark Chadbourn. Cover art by John Picacio

This is the only book in the list I have yet to read. I wasn’t going to include it at first, but I could not make a list of awesome covers without including John Picacio. John is becoming a force in the fantasy art world, and this cover shows you why. The swirls of color and mist around a nightmarish image make a truly startling sight that is not likely to leave you for some time.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. This is my all-time favorite from Michael Komarck:

  2. I love the Jack Adrian cover, too, for the same reason you do, Justin. I love the little flowers almost crushed by the boot.

  3. I just saw this cover, but I think it has instantly become one of my favorites. Although if I had to pick one of yours it would probably be either The Hounds of Avalon or The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart. Both are interesting covers.

  4. Steve /

    This by far is my favorite cover of all time. To me it gives you an insight into the different cities within the book. Made me want to read the book without even reading the blurb.

  5. Donato Giancola’s paintings make me cry. He often reads the book that he’s been commissioned to do the cover for, so all of the elements in the painting are relavent to the story.

    This one is my favorite cover, I think:

    I love the way that the fonts work with the image. (oh gawd, that poor grieving man, and those beautiful drowned mer-folks!)
    Kathleen Bryan The Golden Rose

  6. I’m a cover art junkie. is doing a series of beautiful artwork combined with short stories from their authors. A real treat!

    I just browsed at (read: slobbered all over) The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma. That’s a gorgeous cover! The image itself is not so fantastic, but the combination with the font and text layout, plus the unbelievable multi-dimensional, illusional “sparkle” overlay. Very cool.

    Lou Anders at PYR does beautiful cover art choices and cover designs. I often like the covers much more than the books. =)

    I’ll shut up now.
    Felix J Palma The Map of Time

  7. J.M. McDermott’s Never Knew Another
    I love how this cover manages to convey tone, introduce the narrator, and drop plot hints, all while being gorgeous. And interesting.
    Never Knew Another J.M. McDermott

    Gail Carriger’s Soulless
    In all honesty, the cover was why I originally picked this book up. You get the mist-filled city paranormal-urban-fantasy look mixed with the steampunk of the dress and goggle-hat and parasol and then add a dash of pop-artiness with the typeface. Done mostly in black and white with the pop of the pinks. And without the pink making it look like it’s another YA paranormal romance about a girl who needs to “find herself” while falling into an overly dramatic love triangle. Love it.
    Gail Carriger Soulless

  8. Mary- good choice! They did a good job with Soulless, and I like your notes about the pink.

    How about Brandon SNderson’s The Way of Kings? I want that as a, like, 30′ long wall mural.
    Brandon Sanderson The Way of Kings

  9. @Mary again: I looked up McDermott’s Never Knew Another. Interesting! *just bought another new book…*

  10. I’ve always thought Komarck’s vision of Rake was particularly stunning, but The Golden Rose’s cover really struck me in its detail and marginally edged it out.

    Elizabeth, if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks). Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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