The Cover Wars

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Wherein we judge books by their covers and attempt to explain ourselves. It’s fun! Join in in the comments or on twitter!

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Janet: I’m not sure if the title is grammatically correct, and that that bothers me. Fire isn’t an adjective, and therefore cannot modify wish, meaning that as cool as this title is, it follows the irritating trend of using nouns as though they were another part of speech. Argh. However, back to the cover, the title font is neat – flowing, stylized yet readable – and the variegated shades reflect the metal of the magic lamp. (I’m pretty sure that the lamp on the cover is magical, and that this story, given the presence of that particular image of lamp, the word “wish,” and the Middle Eastern-esque arched architecture in the background, will be based on or at least inspired by Ali Baba/Aladdin.) I like the wisps of smoke. The lamp appears to float above the floor, which would annoy me (lamps do not float) except that this one might when it is about to spew forth a djinn or some other magical entity. I kind of want to know who is wishing and what for, and for that I would have to read the back; if I come across this in a library I will probably do so.

Nafiza: Okay, so I’m very prickly when it comes to portrayal of djinni in fiction because they usually get it wrong. I don’t like this one. I don’t like the lamp because of the Aladdin connotations. I also don’t like the colour scheme and the typography seems disruptive and clunky – not in harmony with the rest of the cover as it should be. There were so many ways this cover could have gone but didn’t…I do, however, like the many doors – an eternity of doors. I don’t know if they are symbolic and have any meaning to the story but I do like them.

Yash: I am also very worried about whether this is going to be another exotic portrayal of one kind of Middle Eastern culture or the other. But that is something I won’t know until I read the book. The cover itself … I kinda like it. I just wish that the title was a little smaller and shared the same colour as the lamp. Or I wish the lamp was shinier. In any case, I’d read the back.

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Janet: The glowing eyes and otherwise unrelieved colour scheme look to me like this cover is trying too hard. If you have to try to be cool, you’re not, okay? Just be who you are, instead. The door knocker wears a smirk that dares someone (the midnight thief?) to risk putting a hand on that ring, again a stylized attitude, particularly in combination with the look-up-through-lashes-from-below stare, which I do not, myself, find appealing. What does appeal, and rather strongly, is that this dangerous-looking, possibly magical door knocker, is female. A lioness, rather than the more usual lion. (Unless, of course, this is a cougar, in which case it could be either sex.) Also, I’m a bit of a sucker for thieves, not because I approve of stealing in real life, but because in books they tend to be slippery and deceptive characters, which makes them a lot of fun to read about. Assuming that the writing is good. But to find that out, I would have to look at the back cover or the inside pages, which I would do not because I like the cover but because of that one detail.

Nafiza: Whoa Janet, nice analysis. I, on the other hand, like the colour scheme and the menacing look in the cat’s eyes and would read a few pages to see if the execution measures up to the premise. (I actually have read a few pages and I don’t know…must read a few more). Still, I like stories about thieves as well so we’ll see.

Yash: I thought it was a panther. I’d love for it to be a lioness. I don’t know how much it would change things for me though. The colours are all muted and as a result not a single thing stands out. Except for the title that is, and though I generally like thief characters, maybe I’m just not in the mood this morning. I’ll wait for Janet’s review and then beg the copy off of her.

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Janet: Ugh. Another thin white girl in a dress AND a half-face cover, too. There are only three things that keep me looking at this cover for longer than a half-second: one, that leather satchel. Leather satchels are rarely practical, for one thing in order to be even the slightest bit comfortable they need a wide strap so it doesn’t bit into your shoulder, but they look very nice and also leather is nice on the fingertips. Two, that light-thread weaving a wavy horizontal line in the middle of the cover. It’s pretty. It looks like magic. Also, it is light-coloured instead of an improbable shade of electric blue or something, so it doesn’t look cheesy. And three, the title. The juxtaposition of thread and stone is curious enough that I want to know how this could be. But. Otherwise, I can’t stand the plastic-looking half-face, the coy pose, and even the stone tenements in the background do not appeal. I wouldn’t pick this up unless one of the other Book Warriors gives it an enthusiastic review. The point of covers is to give a hint as to the books contents, and to entice people to buy; unfair as this may seem to the author, if the cover is blandly generic, what am I supposed to expect of the writing?

Nafiza: I’m going to check this one out because of the title. I don’t like the cover at all. Even the golden threads fail to enthrall me. I don’t see anything in the cover itself (or in the model) that would tempt me to pick it up – except for the title of course.

Yash: Everyone know how I feel about people on covers (and people in general), but I am going to say this- I love the title. I love the shimmering golden threads on the cover. I love the bag she’s carrying with what looks like some kind of relic. I am sufficiently intrigued. I will read the back and maybe a chapter.

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Janet: Okay, the city-crown is interesting, but I don’t like that face! Not only is it a half-face, but it seems to deliberately sink out of sight for devious reasons of its own, which I do not trust. Goblins are usually nasty beasts, and I don’t care spend time with them. On the other hand, although the cover style is not my thing, court intrigue can be. I’ll wait to hear a review from someone I trust.

Nafiza: I don’t like this cover at all but people whose opinions I trust have sworn to me that this is a diamond in the dust and I must read this. So I will. I just don’t like the cover at all. The colour scheme doesn’t appeal to me, neither does the goblin. I’m being negative, sorry, but I will read the novel.

Yash: My heart beat wildly for a moment in the hopes of some kind of sequel to The Labyrinth and maybe a CD that accompanies the book so we could sing along to David Bowie or something. I don’t know. The cover looks … not quite as fun. Maybe I’ll wait and see if Nafiza likes it.

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Janet: Hm hm hm. If the title were reversed – eg. Oliver and the Marvelous Girl – I’d be wary, because naming a character, or obversely, withholding the name of a central character, expresses the power dynamic between the characters, particularly who is the subject and who is the object-catalyst (Manic Pixie Dream Girls, for example). While I’m intrigued by Ophelia and this exceptional, unusual boy (also – look at their clothes! Impractical but pretty), I want to know a lot more about their circumstances and relationship before I drop my guard. That being said, the background adds magic and mystery (is implied magic the theme for this Cover Wars?) and a possible authority figure – or an adult in need of rescue – so, keeping a wary eye out for who has agency, who has power, and who the focal and most rounded character is, I’d look at the back and probably flip through a few pages. One thing I appreciate in particular is that this cover is a work of art that looks like a work of art, rather than an airbrushed drawing (or an airbrushed photograph) that pretends to represent reality.

Nafiza: I love this! It’s prettier in person. And the back is super awesome. Not the synopsis but the little bit provided on the back. I’m too lazy to go look it up. Just take my word for it.

Yash: See, now, this is lovely. It has a similar colour scheme to Midnight Thief  but the light coming in through the window makes all the difference. It’s interesting that the girl is wearing a blue coat that almost blends into the rest of the cover, but we have her name and so we know a bit of who she is. On the other hand, the marvellous boy really is remarkable with his gold and white ensemble. And I am very curious about the (menacing?) silhouette in the back. I appreciate the amount of thought that went into the cover, and the characters’ designs, it gives me a hint of what to expect without giving away too much. I wish more covers were like this.