Friday Faceoff – All That Is Gold Does Not Glitter


This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week’s topic is comparing covers featuring shining, buttery gorgeousness. I found this one something of a challenge, but decided upon this one – Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold, the first book in his successful Shadows of the Apt series. Apart from anything else, it’s a fascinating twist on epic fantasy – see my review here.



This first cover was published by Tor in December 2008 as the paperback edition. This is the edition we own, so I do like it for that reason. But in comparison to the other two, it is fairly boring, I think.


This second cover is the Kindle edition released by Tor back in 2008 – and to be honest, I’m not sure why they didn’t use this one for both editions. I particularly like the alien feel of the warrior and the font, which works really well.



This third cover was released by Pyr in 2010 and I love it – apart from the truly dreadful font. What were they thinking?? It reads as though the book is entitled Empire – as well as being garishly ugly. So… if I could pinch the font from Tor’s Kindle edition and transfer it onto this one, then it’s a clear winner. Otherwise – it’s a draw this week! What do you think?

23 responses »

  1. Wow! I haven’t read this book, but I’d have to go with the middle entry (Tor Kindle edition). The color scheme, the sky, the cloaked man, the fireball spell in his hand (well… I think that’s what it looks like?)… If I saw that in a store with its front cover facing out, I’d definitely pick it up.

    • I agree – it’s better than the top cover by a long country mile – it does make you wonder why they didn’t go for that one for the paperback edition, as well…

      • I read somewhere (though I don’t recall where) that publishers often change covers from one format to another because sometimes the hardcover’s artwork loses some of its “punch” when converted to paperback. But from paperback to Kindle… Yeah, that’s weird.

  2. I kind of agree with your conclusion, with the caveat that the Tor/Kindle lettering might get completely lost amid the action-packed Pyr illustration. I imagine some compromise would have been needed.

    • And of course you’re absolutely right. But I’m sure the scrolling could be highlighted or given a ‘pop’ as my lovely cover designer calls it. But as it is… I simply cannot choose between the second and third covers.

  3. I agree, I like the image from the third one the best, but the font from the second. However, that font would never work on the third one because it’s too thin and there’s too much going on in the background of the third. However, they definitely could’ve found something better or made the background less busy.

    • You’re right, of course:). Still almost ANYTHING would be better than that dreadful primary school noticeboard effort they’ve got going on there, right now! Not that I’m over-emoting about the whole business. At all.

  4. The Tor Kindle cover is the one I have in paperback, and that’s my favourite. The first one is very generic “hooded man”, and the bottom one makes it look like a Warhammer novel.

    • lol… I hadn’t thought about the bottom one in those terms! But perhaps it’s no coincidence that we used to spend hours and hours Warhammering when the children were younger…

  5. I do like Tchaikovsky – I haven’t read this series, well to be honest I’ve only just really found him, he contributed a story to Monstrous Little Voices which I loved and then The Tiger and the Wolf which was really good. I love your covers – I actually pretty much like all three but I love the third most. Its so vibrant with lots going on to catch the eye. I know what you mean about the font but I don’t dislike it, it makes me think maybe they were aiming at a retro sci fi feel.
    Lynn 😀

    • If you want another recommendation – track down his Children of Time, it’s a sci fi generational ship adventure gone wrong… Funny and clever with some really interesting twists. And I’d feel more forgiving about the the clunky font – if the whole title had been given the same treatment. But I do realise I’ve become a tad rabid about the whole issue…

  6. This is a series I’ve been eager to check out for years now. The Tor cover is too blurry/fuzzy for my taste, so it between the last two. I like the warrior on the kindle, but I still I have to go wth Pyr too. I hate the font also, but I’m drawn to the action and colors of the cover.

  7. The first one was the one also used for Polish release and I kind of like it: it’s simple, but it catches eye, and I liked the whole series of them.
    The second one, to me personally, is boring and almost indistinguishable from all the other fantasy covers.
    And I agree on your thoughts on the third: eye-catching (though the human anatomy is messed up a bit and it makes me cringe), but that font. It suggests some science-fiction space-opera, not fantasy.

    • Hm. Yes… well there’s a reason the human anatomy is messed up – they are very insectoid and there is a strong element of steampunk in this series. While it is generally described as epic fantasy, there are definitely some sci fi overtones in there.

      • Yeah, I recall the series (I think I’ve read 2 first books). I think I “suffer” from having married an artist, also one bound on character design: he made me very sensitive about how successfully distort human anatomy to create “other species”, and I feel the cover artist fell a bit short. 😀
        But nevertheless, a stunning cover.

      • Ha ha! I know what you mean – I used to be married to a biker. So I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes ranting at the latest Bourne film because one of the heavy police bikes is twisting and turning through the streets – successfully – in pursuit of a trail bike. It SO couldn’t happen! Physics wouldn’t LET it happen. Grrr!

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