Next week, Amazon Prime will be launching its adaptation of The Wheel of Time series. This is one of the logical successors to Game of Thrones;
So, over the course of the past few years, I’ve been reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. At the rate of one book per year, I’ve read the first three books in the series. I wanted to read at least one more, before Amazon Prime launched the first season of its adaptation of the series. But, when I went to purchase the fourth book, The Shadow Rising, I was greeted with new covers.
Here are the covers for the first three books that I had:
One thing that really comes across in these covers is that they have a lot of personality. These won’t tell you the whole story of what happens in these pages, but it certainly gives you something.
More than these new, Amazon-approved covers, certainly.
And they’re pretty much all like this.
Frankly, I think these are boring. The colors they use are good, and they use the wheel symbol, which is obviously important to the series. But there’s nothing eye-catching about this. It’s bland, and boring. The title doesn’t stand out either. If I saw this book in a bookstore, knowing nothing about the series, I certainly wouldn’t stop to read it. Whereas, the original book covers are vibrant, and fascinating.
Looking at the covers of some of the books I haven’t gotten to yet, they really run the gamut. Lord of Chaos looks like a cringey romance novel, whereas the book following it, Path of Daggers has a cover that is really fitting for the fantasy equivalent of War and Peace.
On the other hand, look at the cover for Lord of Chaos, which is certainly something to behold.
This looks like a D-tier romance novel. It’s hilarious, but certainly not good. Even still, I think I’d prefer this to these new covers.
Almost as soon as they released these new, more boring covers, the pulpy, more illustrated covers became almost impossible to get. I think it’s a crying shame. Occasionally, I see people online complaining about the negative effects of minimalism, and I don’t usually agree with them, but I definitely agree here. Keep these boring covers with the Wheel symbol, I’ll take the original covers any day of the week.
In hindsight, a perfect example of this type of phenomenon is the covers for A Song of Ice and Fire series. If you’re in the US, like me, mentioning this series probably brings up a certain cover design; different color for each book with angular font, and an object in the center. A Game of Thrones is blue with the hilt of a sword, A Clash of Kings is yellow with a crown, A Storm of Swords is green with a helm, A Feast for Crows is red with a goblet, and A Dance with Dragons is white with a shield with a dragon on it. But these covers weren’t the norm until the first edition of A Dance with Dragons, which came out in 2011, 15 years after the series started.
Do you know what the first editions of the other books look like? I won’t include A Dance with Dragons, obviously, or A Feast for Crows because the first edition cover is fairly similar. But the other editions tell a bit of a different story.
The original A Game of Thrones cover is a slightly better version of relevant plot object being the focus of the cover, but in this case it’s an early version of the Iron Throne. One constant objection about the Iron Throne on the television show was that it was smaller than the canonical version of the throne, which is huge. But the TV version is fairly close to what appears on the main cover, which is neat. If anyone would dare to complain to me that the throne on the show isn’t canonical, first, I would tell them that the canon on the show versus canon in the books doesn’t matter relative to the show, nor vice versa.
From a design standpoint, I don’t know that this cover design is that much better than the most popular American edition, which just shows the hilt of a sword. In theory, they’re the same; just an object with some amount of relevance to the plot with the title and one that I wouldn’t call that exceedingly interesting, but by the same token, it’s also fairly exciting.
On the other hand, take a look at what the first edition of A Clash of Kings, which looks vastly different. An unspecific character is bending the knee in front of Stannis, while Melissandre stands by. At first, I had thought this was Joffrey and Cersei, but in hindishgt, this could only be Stannis and Melissandre, given the symbol on the back of the thone.
There are many compelling scenes in A Storm of Swords, but I don’t know that I’d say that the Hoster Tully funeral scene from the beginning of the novel is first among them. But this says more about the contents of the book than just a picture of a helmet.
And we can have this discussion for a plethora of different fantasy series. What would you rather have on your copy of Lord of the Rings? A beautiful landscape of Rivendell or Isengard, or would you rather have a Jpeg of the One Ring? Many of the covers of these legacy fantasy series don’t take risks that are quite as bold as the covers we saw in the 1990’s and earlier.
What is your favorite fantasy cover?