I am one of those people who has no problem admitting I judge books by their covers.
I mean, why lie about it.
Can’t we all just admit that when we look over the bookshelf at our local Barnes & Noble or online at Amazon the first thing we gravitate toward is the cover of the books. If it’s amazing, we will generally want to find out more about it. If the cover totally sucks, we will, more than likely, second guess any thought to actually reading it.
To me, no where is cover art more important than the fantasy genre.
Why do I say that, you ask?
Because fantasy is a genre that hopes to inspire wonder in people. The stories themselves are usually epic adventures with breathtaking magic, awe-inspiring miracles with blade or wand or metal elements, and unusual people. So the cover to a fantasy MUST let a potential reader sense the fantastical elements contained within those pages.
Naturally, there are numerous ways to do that. And, every prospective reader has his or her own idea of what is awe-inspiring artwork. That is why the fantasy shelves of any bookstore is an amazing place to browse for art, because each novel is like a portal to some amazing world unlike our own; each representing one art teams expression of the fantastical.
Now, I’ve been reading fantasy most of my life. (At least thirty-four years, but whose counting, right?) And there have been certain book covers that have captured my imagination and remained with me even though years have passed between my first sight of them and the present day. Some of those novels went on to become my favorite stories. Others are ones I enjoyed reading but forgot about soon after. A few went in the “I Didn’t Like It” list. And a couple I appreciated the cover art but never even bought the book. But the one thing all these covers had in common was a perfect vision of what I personally thought was an intriguing, fantasy world that I wanted to journey to.
So, without any further ado, here are my Favorite Fantasy Covers (#100-91) . . .
100. SWORD OF THE ARCHON BY D.P. PRIOR
“Deacon Shader has dreamt of the Sword of the Archon since a child, and now, as a veteran warrior, he is finally within reach of winning the holy blade in a tournament at the heart of the Templum’s empire.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, plague breaks out in the streets of Sarum, and a horde of undead rises from the sacred burial mounds of the Dreamers.
Prompted by a voice from the Abyss, the liche Dr. Cadman has discovered a piece of the mythical Statue of Eingana and corrupted its power, but worse than that, an ancient enemy has noticed and turns his eyes once more upon the Earth.
Those with understanding know all too well the threat that hangs over Creation and have taken great pains to ward against it.” — Goodreads
Love the cover of this warrior of faith from a post-apocalyptic future. I especially dig the hat. Honestly, it reminds me of my witch-hunter on Warhammer Online from several years ago.
99. TOMORROW THE KILLING – DANIEL POLANSKY
“Once he was a hero of the Great War, and then a member of the dreaded Black House. Now he is the criminal linchpin of Low Town. His name is Warden. He thought he had left the war behind him, but a summons from up above brings the past sharply, uncomfortably, back into focus. General Montgomery’s daughter is missing somewhere in Low Town, searching for clues about her brother’s murder. The General wants her found, before the stinking streets can lay claim to her, too.” — Goodreads
Dark, moody, and mysterious are the descriptive words that come to mind when I see this cover. Plus the fact that it makes me really interested in what is going on. Take a look at more of cover artist Rhett Podersoo’s work Here
98. RANGE OF GHOSTS – ELIZABETH BEAR
“Temur, grandson of the Great Khan, is walking away from a battlefield where he was left for dead. All around lie the fallen armies of his cousin and his brother, who made war to rule the Khaganate. Temur is now the legitimate heir by blood to his grandfather’s throne, but he is not the strongest. Going into exile is the only way to survive his ruthless cousin.
Once-Princess Samarkar is climbing the thousand steps of the Citadel of the Wizards of Tsarepheth. She was heir to the Rasan Empire until her father got a son on a new wife. Then she was sent to be the wife of a Prince in Song, but that marriage ended in battle and blood. Now she has renounced her worldly power to seek the magical power of the wizards. These two will come together to stand against the hidden cult that has so carefully brought all the empires of the Celadon Highway to strife and civil war through guile and deceit and sorcerous power.” – Goodreads
It sounds good. Plus, it has this absolutely stunning cover by Donato Giancola. One day, I’m going to actually read it. Take a look at more of Donato Giancola’s art Here
97. ELANTRIS — BRANDON SANDERSON
“ELANTRIS WAS A PLACE OF GLORY.
The capital of Arelon, the home to people transformed into magic-using demigods by the Shaod.
But then the magic failed, Elantris started to rot, and its inhabitants turned into powerless wrecks.
And in the new capital, Kae, close enough to Elantris for everyone to be reminded of what they have lost, a princess arrives. Sarene is to be married to unite Teod and Arelon against the religious imperialists of Fjordell. But she is told that Raoden, her husband to be, is dead.
Determined to carry on the fight for Teod and Arelon’s freedom, Sarene clashes with the high priest Hrathen. If Hrathen can persuade the populace to convert, Fjordell will reign supreme.
But there are secrets in Elantris, the dead and the ruined may yet have a role to play in this new world. Magic lives.” — Goodreads
This UK version of the cover is stunning to me. Not sure why, but the gate opening with the green light streaming out just peaks my curiosity. Anyone know who the artist was?
96. THIEVES WORLD — ROBERT LYNN ASPRIN and LYNN ABBEY
“Shared World anthologies. What a brilliant idea! The concept was that a setting would be provided and some basic rules set down, such as ‘no killing another author’s character without permission.’ And then recruit some top notch writers to come and play.
This book still has a nice fat place on my shelf.” — Robin Hobb, author of The Farseer Trilogy
I recall picking this one up over and over again when I was a teenager, trying to decide whether I should buy it. At the time, I really didn’t love short stories or anthologies, preferring grand, sweeping epic fantasy series, but the sight of that cover would not let go of me. Eventually, I broke down and purchased the book, even read it. I can’t recall much about it, but that cover has always been a favorite of mine. Artwork by Garry Ruddell.
95. THE MISENCHANTED SWORD – LAWRENCE WATT-EVANS
“The old wizard wasn’t exactly happy with Valder, who’d led his enemy to his hut. Now hut and magical supplies were destroyed. But he’d promised the young scout a magic sword to get him safely back to his own lines — and a much enchanted sword Valder would get!
The resulting sword gave perfect protection — sometimes! It could kill any man — or even half demon. In fact, once drawn, it had to kill before it could be put down or sheathed.
Army wizards told Valder that the sword would keep him alive until he’d drawn it 100 times; then it would kill him! It wouldn’t prevent his being wounded, maimed or cut to pieces, but it wouldn’t let him die. If his new job as Chief Assassin for the army didn’t make him use up the spell, he’d be practically immortal.
Not bad, it seemed. There had to be a catch somewhere.
There was — and it was a lulu!” — Goodreads
Have to admit to never reading this novel, though I’ve enjoyed more than a few of Mr. Watt-Evans fantasy stories. Be that as it may, this cover by Darrell K. Sweet really mesmerized me back in the day.
94. ACROSS THE FACE OF THE WORLD – RUSSELL KIRK PATRICK
For 2000 years, Kannwar, the Immortal Destroyer, Lord of Bhrudwo, has been planning revenge on the Most High.
Mahnum has escaped the Destroyer’s prison, but on his way home to Loulea, he and his wife are captured. His sons, Leith and Hal, set off in pursuit with a small group of villagers to free their parents and to warn their world of the coming war. But not all of the Company agree that so few can make a difference, or think that anyone will listen to them.
So begins a dangerous quest to challenge darkness, fulfill a prophecy and change the course of their world’s history.
Sounds interesting enough in that epic fantasy sort of way. What is absolutely brilliant is that cover though. After looking at it, I want to jump on a horse and ride out on an epic quest myself. As long as I can be home before my favorite shows come on, that is. Take a look at more of Steven Stone’s art Here
93. THE DESERT SPEAR – PETER V. BRETT
“The sun is setting on humanity. The night now belongs to voracious demons that arise as the sun sets, preying upon a dwindling population forced to cower behind ancient and half-forgotten symbols of power. These wards alone can keep the demons at bay, but legends tell of a Deliverer: a general-some would say prophet-who once bound all mankind into a single force that defeated the demons. Those times, if they ever existed, are long past. The demons are back, and the return of the Deliverer is just another myth . . . or is it?” — Goodreads
This cover is brimming with action, from the spear of the desert warrior to the promise of death in his stern eyes. Without this stellar cover, I really wonder if I would have ever picked up The Warded Man to see what this series was all about. Take a look at more of Larry Rostant’s art Here
92. THE MIRROR OF HER DREAMS by STEPHEN R. DONALDSON
“The daughter of rich but neglectful parents, Terisa Morgan lives alone in a New York City apartment, a young woman who has grown to doubt her own existence. Surrounded by the flat reassurance of mirrors, she leads an unfulfilled life—until the night a strange man named Geraden comes crashing through one of her mirrors, on a quest to find a champion to save his kingdom of Mordant from a pervasive evil that threatens the land. Terisa is no champion. She wields neither magic nor power. And yet, much to her own surprise, when Geraden begs her to come back with him, she agrees.
Now, in a culture where women are little more than the playthings of powerful men, in a castle honeycombed with secret passages and clever traps, in a kingdom threatened from without and within by enemies able to appear and vanish out of thin air, Terisa must become more than the pale reflection of a person. For the way back to Earth is closed to her. And the enemies of Mordant will stop at nothing to see her dead.” — Goodreads
Great Michael Whelan cover. Take a look at more of his art Here
91. THRONE OF GLASS – SARAH J. MAAS
“Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Destined for greatness.
In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake: she got caught.
Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament—fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted? — Goodreads
After reading some reviews, I do not think this book is for me, no matter how stunning that cover. Anyone know who the artist is of this one?
Part I is now complete. So tell me which ones you like and which ones you hate
I saw you that had created a Group on facebook mirroring your site but that you had stopped updating it. Was that because it was too much work or just not enough traffic or some other reason?
Fascinating how your (and our) tastes have changed! Covers like THE MIRROR OF HER DREAMS and THE MISENCHANTED SWORD obviously belong to another time, whereas those of, say, THRONE OF GLASS, DESERT SPEAR and TOMORROW THE KILLING are rather trendier!
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Throne of Glass has an awesome cover, really striking. I like a good kick ass cover.
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This is a great idea for a series of posts. Love it. Great covers too. I need to read more fantasy. So much great stuff out there.
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Tomorrow The Killing and Throne of Glass are favourites.
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