Friday Faceoff – The king is dead, long live the king…


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 the theme is a cover featuring Greek myths, so I’ve selected The King Must Die – Book 1 of the Theseus series by Mary Renault.


This cover, produced by Virago in March 2015, is my favourite. I really like the simplicity of this image – the white against the golden colour is very effective. I also like the fact that background is shaded and slightly patterned with that classic Hellenic design. My one grizzle is all that chatter on the cover seems unnecessary. Ah well – you can’t have it all. Apparently…


This Serbian edition was produced by Laguna in November 2012 and is also a reasonable effort, although that border pattern seems to hark back more to my great grandmother’s antimacassars than anything remotely Grecian. It’s a shame, because that apparently small anomaly really jars with me.


Published in 1990 by Hodder and Stoughton, this is a strong contender for being my favourite. I love the design – that statue of the minotaur with the blood-tipped curving horns makes for an arresting image. The frieze in the background is also well designed. I think, though, that the top cover just edges it.


This Portuguese edition, published by Círculo do Livro in 1985 is the least successful, in my opinion. While I love the striking, orange backdrop the figures are looking stilted and a bit peculiar. I think this would have been far more effective if Theseus and the minotaur were in silhouette.


This edition, produced by Vintage Books USA is another blast from the past as it was produced in 1988. I very much like the overall effect of this one – but the one drawback is that I cannot work out what that shape is. Is it a map of Greece? Not exactly, as far as I can gather. So I find it frustrating as neither can I make an outline of an aurochs or a Greek warrior. I’m probably being an idiot and missing something really obvious, here – I’m looking forward to someone telling me. Which is your favourite?

27 responses »

  1. Pingback: The Friday Face-Off: Greek Mythology – Books by Proxy

  2. I’m with you on this one too! It’s a beautiful cover and very appropriate for the topic 😀

    …I also like how the Minotaur looks as though he’s raising a finger to say, “Excuse me, one moment please!”

    • I hadn’t thought of it like that – but now you mention it, he is definitely suddenly wanting to have a bit of chat…:). It’s a lovely book, too…

  3. My eye was immediately drawn to the second one, but then I read your description about your great grandmother’s antimacassars. Haha, I still like the image a lot, but now I can’t “unsee” the borders anymore 😀

  4. I definitely prefer the simplicity of the first cover combined with that striking orange/gold color. I’d personally like to remove or at least relocate the ‘Introduced by Bettany Hughes’ bit to the back cover, but otherwise it’s lovely..

  5. These are truly GREAT covers!! Well, except for the Portuguese one, which I think is just…..HORRENDOUS, although I do agree with you on the background.

    I think my favorite is the one published by Vintage Books, although I also love the first one, by Virago, and the one by Hodder and Stoughton. The Virago cover would be SO much better if they were to remove all of the extra text, so I do agree with you regarding this, too.

    The Laguna cover doesn’t look all that Grecian to me, either. And it’s not because of the borders, although they sure don’t look Grecian, either. But it’s just that this image looks like a Neoclassical painting, by either Ingres or Jacques-Louis David. This was not the style of Ancient Greece.

    As for the “non-map of Greece”… I think the entire image is supposed to represent a broken shard of pottery, with some of the artwork destroyed. I could be wrong, but that’s what first came to me when I took a look at it.

    This is a nice cover meme! Thanks for sharing!! HUGS!! ❤ ❤ ❤ 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Oh thank you so much for clearing that up! There was I overthinking the whole business… I knew I needed a fresh pair of eyes to work out what was going on – thank so much for taking the time and trouble to do so… And of course, you’re absolutely right about the whole feel of the Laguna cover, it simply isn’t correct. Whereas, for all it’s crude oddness, the Portuguese one is…

      Thank you for coming by and your very helpful comments, Maria – have a lovely week:))

    • Yes… I also like the ancient pottery vibe:). I was lucky enough to be able to visit one of the museums in Athens where a lot of this amazing pottery was on display when I was girl – I’ve never forgotten it.

  6. Pingback: The Friday Face-Off: A Little Soil to Make it Grow – Books by Proxy

  7. The first one is definitely my favorite one, though the 1990’s one came in close second. I share your frustration on the last one – I have no idea what the shape is either!

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