Category Archives: book covers

Friday Faceoff – If you want something in Life – reach out and grab it… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffgrabbycovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers that made us want to grab the book. I’ve selected The Mirror and the Light – Book 3 of the Thomas Cromwell series by Hilary Mantel, which I loved – see my review.

Henry Holt & Co, March 2021

This edition was produced by Henry Holt and Co in March 2020, and is attractive and appropriate. I really like the simplicity of the design, with the thorny branches roaming through the title font and the single Tudor rose featured in the middle of the cover. If I hadn’t already immediately lost my heart to another particular cover, then this would have been my favourite. My main niggle with this one is that although Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies are both mentioned, nowhere on this cover does it tell us that this is the third book in the series – which I think is vital information that readers need to know.

Picador, May 2021

Expected in May this year by Picador, I have found that this cover has grown on me. Initially I didn’t like it much – turning half the cover into a textbox is never going to find favour with me as I don’t like them. But I appreciate that this cover gives the reader all the necessary details, while that image of Thomas Cromwell, reproduced from the famous portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger, is surprisingly effective. Fracturing it like that gives a sense of a distorted reflection – and a sober foreshadowing of Cromwell’s fate.

Fourth Estate, March 2020

This edition, published by Fourth Estate in March 2020, is my favourite. Yes… I know there is nothing in this design that remotely references the life and times of Thomas Cromwell in any way. And I know that this cover doesn’t bother to tell the read that this is the third book in the series… And that while the author and title fonts are wonderfully clear – rather oddly, they have right-hand justification, rather than being centred. But the minute I laid eyes on this particular design, I yearned to have this book.

HarperCollins, March 2020

This edition, produced by HarperCollins in March 2020, is overwhelmingly dreary. That gradation from funereal black around the edges through to misery blue in the middle gives no sense of the vividness of the prose and the three-dimensional depiction of a cast of extraordinary characters during one of the most interesting and tumultuous periods in English history.

Turkish edition, January 2021

This Turkish edition, published by Alfa Yayınları in January 2021, is another strong offering. I like the fact the artwork features part of a family portrait by Holbein which includes Henry VIII and Jane Seymour. Because in the latter part of his reign, apart from indulging in disastrous and expensive wars, Henry was obsessed with the question of his succession. It shaped both the foreign and domestic policy of the country and ultimately brought about the downfall of Cromwell, though there were also other factors as this book makes clear. I also like the textbox being in the shape of the Tudor rose. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Don’t care how old I am – I still love cartoons… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffcartooncovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with CARTOON images. I’ve selected Sourcery – Book 5 of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.

Harper, April 2008

This edition was produced by Harper in April 2008, and while I think many of the cover designs they came up with for the Discworld novels are underwhelming – I actually like this one. It has the playfulness and slight sense of mayhem that should always feature on Discworld cover. But whoever thought it was then a good idea to slap a round red label across the design needs to be frogmarched to an optician for an eye test. It wrecks the balance of the whole cover, because of the way it pulls your attention across to it. Grrr!

Corgi, July 1989

Published in July 1989 by Corgi, very unusually, this original cover design isn’t my favourite. I normally love Josh Kirby’s covers, but I’m not a fan of his depiction of Conina in this one. A bit too much bosom and hips – and yes, I’m aware that it is probably a swipe at the tendency for fantasy heroines to be over-endowed and under-dressed on book covers. But given that Pratchett’s writing doesn’t ever cross a line into any sexiness, I think it is sending the wrong message about the book.

Gollancz, February 2014

This edition, published by Gollancz in February 2014, is part of a re-release of the series for collectors. Apparently. Why anyone would want to clutter up their bookshelves with a book so brimful of life and colourful characters encased in such a miserably monochrome effort is beyond me. But that’s because I loathe this cover.

New American Library, 1989

This edition, produced by the New American Library in 1989 is more like it! There is the Librarian and Rincewind both looking suitably befuddled at the exodus of various creatures from the Unseen University. The flavour of the book is nicely caught and the artwork is well done and eye-catching. And not a nasty sticker in sight😊. This one is so very nearly my favourite…

French edition, November 2010

This French edition, published by Pocket in November 2010, nails it as far as I’m concerned. I love that awesome explosion and the wonderful image of a wizard flying across the cover in mid-air. I have to say, that next to the originals which will always have a place in my heart as we own most of them, it’s the Pocket covers that I think manage to get the sense of barely contained chaos that tends to run through all the Discworld books. And they achieve this while still producing a visually appealing effort, which is a huge achievement, given what a tricky task that is. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – On the right track but on the wrong train… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofftraincovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with images of TRAINS. I’ve selected Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith of The Ladies’ No 1 Detective Agency fame. And in case you haven’t encountered this little gem, I wrote a review of it back in 2014 – see my review of Trains and Lovers.

Pantheon, June 2013

This edition was produced by Pantheon in June 2013, and is the original cover design, so has set the tone for the subsequent covers. I actually like it very much. It’s clever and to the point – we see the train speeding past with a series of ardent couples all engaged in various stages of courtship. I like the contrast of the beige background colour and the grey train, which ought to be boring but somehow is not. I also like the title font, particularly the colouring of it, though I would have preferred that it was just a little more bolded to give a bit of extra heft for when it is in thumbnail.

Polygon, November 2012

Published in November 2012 by Polygon, I think this cover is trying just a tad too hard. Heart-shaped clouds if you must, with the sun peeping out – but flowers bouncing around the train wheels and a fluttering in the air. Really?? Apart from anything else, this is giving the completely wrong idea of the overall tone of this book, which is far more nuanced and ambivalent about the business of falling in love and what happens next. So, while I’ll agree that it is an attractive cover, I don’t like it as I think it tips into sentimentality which I LOATHE.

Anchor, December 2013

This edition, published by Anchor in December 2013 is far more sombre in tone, despite the bright red colouring. The seat facing the track with two single people sitting alone gives a sense of loneliness – and the randomness of encountering someone that you bond sufficiently well that you fall in love. This cover is certainly a contender.

Italian edition, April 2014

This Italian edition, produced by Tre60 in April 2014 is back to the theme of the love train. The punchy blue backdrop and high bridge makes the train with its trail of hearts look small and rather fragile. I also like the treatment of the font, which really grabs the eye and stands out well in thumbnail.

Polygon, August 2017

This edition, published by Polygon in August 2017, is my favourite. I love the station scene and the punchy contrast between that saturated blue, which works well as a backdrop to the title font, and the yellow arches. The station clock and flowers act as a pleasing set for the lovers meeting on the station platform. It’s very simple and pared back, as are all the cover designs for this book, but this is the most visually pleasing and works well for this particular book, I think. Which is your favourite?

Cover Share: An Ordshaw Facelift by Indie Author Phil Williams #Brainfluffbookcovers #TheSunkenCitytrilogy

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Phil Williams, successful Indie author of The Sunken City trilogy, talks through his design process as he revamps the covers for his urban fantasy trilogy. As you know, I’m fascinated by book covers and what makes them successful, so leapt at the chance to have a chat with Phil about his reasoning behind the design decisions he made.

Why did you decide to change the covers, Phil? I have always loved these…

The original cover for Under Ordshaw was my first major attempt at a book design, and it served me well. I aimed to mix elements of urban fantasy, horror and thriller, with a nod to the more technical designs of the Rivers of London or Alex Verus series.

The results never quite satisfied me, though I received lots of very positive feedback, and when I frequently suggested I might update them fans told me no, they liked the originals too much. Part of the problem was that I designed a new cityscape with each book and they never quite felt like Ordshaw. I felt the same about including characters or creatures: literal interpretations of the books are hard to pull off.

Combine that with years passing where I learnt more and more about cover design, leading to what I felt was a bit of a step change in my results for Kept From Cages, and it constantly niggled me that I could better.

How did you go about evolving the new design to include all the elements you wanted?

Over the past year or more, I’ve been toying with character covers, searching for a suitable Pax. No small feat when I work with composite stock, but I had a very particular image in mind.

Finally, I found a model that worked. I put together new designs at length until I had something almost approaching what I first envisioned. I also improved the background with higher-quality grunge texturing, and searched for a fantasy-esque graffiti motif to go behind the character and bring out the supernatural/horror element.

Then, when I had my Pax and a looming fairy, and found matching imagery for the other books, I realised the artwork far outshone my character image. When I removed the character, the simpler, more vivid design came to life.

From there, I experimented with extra colour, magic splashes, smashed glass, torn paper titles and more. Thanks to my wife being merciless with my bold choices, all those elements were finally worked into the design as subtle details, to form the covers we have now.

How did you then go about changing the look of an-already published series?

As I’ve already released the complete Sunken City Trilogy, one of the challenges was updating all the covers at once. Once the first design was complete, though, the designs for the others fell into place – thankfully all together, because seeing them side-by-side I ended up (with more feedback from my wife!) swapping the images from Under Ordshaw to Blue Angel, which now make more sense!

Now, I’ve got all three covers updated in eBook and paperback format, with audiobooks to follow, which comes at a good time to celebrate the upcoming release of The Violent Fae in audiobook form, along with the second Ikiri book. These new designs, I feel, blend better with the Kept From Cages design, and The City Screams’ cover, recently tweaked, though I’ll probably give that a redesign too.

To my mind they’re much more striking now, and above all embody the energy of the books. I only hope the public will agree!

Thank you, Phil, for taking the time to share the process with us all. What do you think – do you prefer the new editions? Have you read the series?

Phil Williams writes contemporary fantasy and dystopian fiction and non-fiction grammar guides. His novels include the interconnected Ordshaw urban fantasy thrillers, the post-apocalyptic Estalia saga and the action-packed Faergrowe series. He also runs the website English Lessons Brighton, and writes reference books to help foreign learners master the nuances of English.

Phil lives with his wife by the coast in Sussex, UK, and now spends a great deal of time walking his impossibly fluffy dog, Herbert.

Friday Faceoff –To robbery, butchery and rapine, they give the lying name of ‘government’; they create a desolation and call it peace… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffRomanwarfarecovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with Roman warfare images. I’ve selected The Eagle of the Ninth – Book 1 of The Dolphin Ring Cycle by Rosemary Sutcliffe.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Sept 1993

This edition was produced by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in September 1993. It has grown on me, as I like the artwork, which is clear and works well in thumbnail. My main grizzle is that eagle standard, which seems to be propped up against the main character’s shoulder in rather a peculiar way. I find it distracting. And I’m not all that keen on the highly stylised font, which says 1920s and 30s, rather than taking me back to Rome.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Sept 2011

Published in September 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), this looks to me to be a cover tie-in to the film. The protagonists look suitably grim and grubby and I like the epic sense of the battle going on in the background, rather than just a few chaps waving shields and pilums around. That is also a wonderfully threatening sky… However, I am disappointed in the choice of font, which blends far too well into the background to effectively stand out or draw the eye.

Oxford University Press, March 2000

This edition, published by Oxford University Press in March 2000, has chosen to focus on the famous legion standard – the golden eagle. It looks fabulous, especially as it has been angled to catch the light and look suitably dramatic. So it’s a crying shame that all that impact and awesomeness is then promptly squandered by cluttering up the cover with that block of unnecessary chatter. WHY couldn’t the bit about the one million copies sold go on the back, under the blurb? This is so nearly my favourite…

Dutch edition, 2003

This Dutch edition, produced by Clavis in 2003, also features the legion’s standard. This design has deliberately chosen to reproduce the sense of the 1950s – this book was first published in 1954 – with the textbox and artwork. While I’m not a fan of textboxes, I respect the care and thought that has gone into this one and it is so very nearly my favourite. I particularly like the red font, which pleasingly picks up the shade of tassels flying from the standard. It’s details like this that make a cover eye-catching.

German edition, 1971

This German edition, published by dtv in 1971, is my choice for this week. I love the vintage feel of the artwork and the clean, uncluttered look. Other than the author and title font, the only other detail is the publisher’s logo – what a lovely change to see the whole of the cover design unimpeded by blobs or chatter! I read this series when I was at school and while this isn’t the same cover as the copy I had – it’s not that different. Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Sometimes we need a little magic… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffcoverswithmagicinthetitle

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with the word MAGIC in the title. I’ve selected Industrial Magic – Book 4 of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong.

Bantam, Oct 2004

This edition was produced by Bantam in October 2004, and is the default cover design for this book. While I like the colour tones and I think the image is quite intriguing, I think the very boring title and author font really lets the design down. It is such a cool title and they could have had a lot of fun playing around with it appearing out of the smoke. That said, I don’t dislike it, I just think a bit more thought could have gone into it.

Orbit, Sept 2004

Published in September 2004 by Orbit, I far prefer this cover. But that might be because it’s the one that I own. I love the slightly grungy reddish background with that heavy-looking metal door, which looks quite ominous – partly because the lighting around it gives the impression there is something powerful and not particularly friendly on the other side of it. This time around, I think that rather official, business-like font works – because it is… industrial. This one is so very nearly my favourite.

Vintage Canada, Jan 2010

This edition, published by Vintage Canada in January 2010, is frankly bizarre. I get that the chequered tights with the chess pieces are supposed to denote that young Paige is a clever strategist (I think!). It’s a while since I read the book, but I don’t recall her playing chess using her legs for a board… I feel these muted colours and the use of red in the title gives this book a horror vibe, which it didn’t have. This is the design I like least – I think it’s gimmicky and misleading.

Hatchette Digital, Sept 2008

This edition, produced by Hatchette Digital in September 2008, is my favourite. I love the intense blue that really draws the eye, particularly in thumbnail. The skyscrapers give a good indication of the modern, streamlined world, while those ominous clouds swirling across the top of them give a sense that all is not well. And what a clever touch to have that pop of magic playing across the building and running into the title font! What a shame that Bantam couldn’t have thought of something similar with that original cover… This one is my favourite.

French edition, August 2009

This French edition, published by Bragelonne in August 2009, is an attractive, well-crafted cover. I like that we cannot see the girl’s face, although she is clearly young, which gives a sense of mystery. And I also like the cityscape in the background with the full moon looming in the sky. And that funky, uneven font for the title nicely sets this cover off. While it is a tad generic, I feel some care has gone into it and I particularly love the red dress and the way it diffuses into a cloud of… magical energy? Which is your favourite?

Friday Faceoff – Every great story seems to begin with a snake… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceoffserpentinecovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with serpentine images. I’ve selected The Reptile Room – Book 2 of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett.

Scholastic, September 1999

This edition was produced by Scholastic in September 1999, and is the default cover design for this book. While I like the artwork, as you’ll know if you visit this meme regularly, I have an unreasonable dislike of textboxes. So this cover, where the artwork is squashed into a small box in the middle, bordered by a bleh-beige colour hasn’t endeared itself to me. Given how quirky this series is, that ultra-boring title font doesn’t do it justice, either. In fact, it seems to me that this cover is a study in how to transform a funny, original book into something that looks dutifully boring.

Egmont Books, May 2003

Published in May 2003 by Egmont Books, this is altogether more successful. The intention to make this cover look like one of those old-fashioned photo albums is far clearer in this iteration of the cover. The black border, contrasting with the bright green of the spine, with the red cord is both attractive and eye-catching. The styling of the font also gives a strong hint that this book is humorous, as well as an action adventure tale. I also think the choice of image, focusing on the interaction of the snake and the Baudelaire baby is far more effective. This one is definitely a contender…

HarperCollins, May 2007

This edition, published by HarperCollins in May 2007, had done away with the original cover design and opted for more artwork, which I really like. I’m not a fan of either textbox, although I’ll concede that the top one does the job of successfully featuring the author name, which is the selling point of this series, rather than the title. I certainly like this cover more than the top one.

Egmont Books (UK), 2010

This edition, produced by Egmont Books (UK) in 2010, is my favourite. I like the artwork that takes the original image and redesigns it to focus still further on the dramatic interaction between the deadly serpent and Sunny. I also think the treatment of the author font fits well with the overall design and the series and title information looks as if they have been considered as part of the overall look, rather than simply been plonked across the image, as so often seems to happen. Overall, this is the cover that would persuade me to pick this one off the shelves.

German edition, May 2002

This German edition, published by Distribooks in May 2002, is one of the very few covers that hasn’t referenced the original artwork in some form. This one has departed from the Edwardian feel of the original image, so the colours and style are fresher and more vivid. The result is attractive and eye-catching. My only niggle is that I think the dramatic, gothic treatment of the title is at odds with the artwork, but overall I think this is a successful cover. Which is your favourite?

Covet the Covers – 19 #Brainfluffcovetthecovers #CovetthecoversRachelAaron

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Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Rachel Aaron’s covers. Her book Last Dragon Standing made my Outstanding Reads of 2020 – but I’ve enjoyed the whole Heartstrikers series – see my reviews of Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished and my mini-review of A Dragon of a Different Colour. I’ve also read and reviewed the first book in the spinoff series, Minimum Wage Magic and Garrison Girl, in addition to The Spirit Rebellion – Book 2 of the Eli Monpress series. Have you read any of these – and which is your favourite cover?


Covet the Covers – 18 #Brainfluffcovetthecovers #CovetthecoversNevilShute

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Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Nevil Shute’s books. Last week I featured A Town Like Alice on my Friday Face-off, which reminded me just how much I loved his books. I’ve gone for the older covers, though there are lots of options for each of these titles. I absolutely loved Requiem for Wren, which I cried buckets over, and In the Wet (published in 1953) which goes forward in time to 1983 – and had nightmares about On the Beach. But I loved all his books. What about you – have you read any of these and if so, which are your favourites? And which of these covers do you like best?

Friday Faceoff – Bears are not companions of men, but children of God… #Brainfluffbookblog #FridayFaceofffurrycreaturescovers

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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 meme is being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and this week we are featuring covers with pictures of furry creatures. I’ve selected Shardik – Book 2 of the Beklan Empire by Richard Adams.

Overlook Duckworth, Nov 2004

This edition was produced by Overlook Duckworth in November 2004, and is one of the default cover designs for this book, which originally came out in May 1974. I really like it – the fact that the bear’s head is made up of the buildings of the main city is spot on, as the story is about what the bear represents to this civilisation. I also appreciate the punchy title and author fonts, which are easily read even in thumbnail. I think this is a successful, eye-catching cover.

Penguin Books, Jan 1976

Published in January 1976 by Penguin books, this is the cover on the book that I owned. It’s one of my most memorable reads – along with the very disturbing The Girl in a Swing – there is something about Adams’ writing that got right under my skin, so it brings back happy memories. I love the image of this bear, huge and savage – just look at the length of those claws. But reluctantly, I don’t like it as much as the previous cover.

Oneworld Books, Nov 2014

This edition, published by Oneworld Books in November 2014, is a reworking of the first cover – and while I like that one, this is my favourite. I think it’s because there is so much here that relates to the story. The profile of the bear in red is apt – Shardik’s appearance triggers a series of violent events. The wooden boards that act as backdrop represents his imprisonment, while I particularly love the fir trees as his teeth in his upper jaw, meeting the cityscape in his lower jaw. Which is a really clever pictorial depiction of the tension between the wilderness and what he represents to the Belden civilisation. I just wish more covers were designed with such respect for the story.

Danish edition, 1977

This Danish edition, produced by Gyldendals Bogklubber in 1977, also features Shardik up on his hind legs trying to outrun the fire that has destroyed the forest where he used to live. Look at the clouds of ash as he moves and the wisping, ashy remains of grass right in the foreground… Again, this is a scene right from the book and works really well as a cover. I like the fact that we are looking up at the bear, emphasising his huge size.

Italian edition, 1976

This Italian edition, published by Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli in 1976 is probably the most attractive of all the covers. The artwork is detailed and beautifully executed, though I don’t get the sense of Shardik’s power and size from this image, unlike the other covers. And it also features an unnecessarily large textbox, which I hate. That said, I still like it even if it isn’t my favourite. Which one do you prefer?