The Cover Wars

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Raisa was just a child when she was sold to work as a slave in the kingdom of Qilara. Despite her young age, her father was teaching her to read and write, grooming her to take his place as a Learned One. In Qilara, the Arnathim, like Raisa, are the lowest class, and literacy is a capital offense. What’s more, only the king, prince, tutor, and tutor-in-training are allowed to learn the very highest order language, the language of the gods. So when the tutor-in-training is executed for teaching slaves this sacred language, and Raisa is selected to replace her, Raisa knows any slipup on her part could mean death.

Keeping her secret is hard enough, but the romance that’s been growing between her and Prince Mati isn’t helping matters. Then Raisa is approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slave rebels—to help liberate Arnath slaves. She wants to free her people, but that would mean aiding a war against Mati. As Raisa struggles with what to do, she discovers a secret that the Qilarites have been hiding for centuries—one that, if uncovered, could bring the kingdom to its knees.

Steph: The cover is a little bit . . . much for me. The sword rending the earth and some weird swirly sand-wind and all that shiny ruby red glaring at me is just over-the-top. Alright, I do admit that fantasy in general is prone to over-the-top-ping stuff but I don’t like it. This looks very CG and fake and hints at a strong reliance on the romance storyline (perhaps the sword is stabbing a heart in twain?) Anyway, this is all to simply say that the cover is not for. The back copy does sound interesting, I think the slave angle is interesting though I’m a little confused–Raisa is already learning to read and write in secret when she is, to our knowledge “randomly”, asked to learn to read and write too? I’m not sure I follow. Ugh. I just don’t want to figure it all out or read a romance (that sounds a little contrived). I’ll wait for reviews.

Janet: I like the title very much. The cover, though – bland. I feel like I’ve seen this a million times before. I feel like I’ve read the synopsis a million times before. If it had stopped with the first paragraph, I might be interested.

Yash: I agree with Steph. Too much happening in the cover. (I wonder if we just all have the same tastes here on Cover Wars, though!) I also agree with Janet: the title is nice. Random Fact: I have problems saying my “w”s and “v”s, but I mean, as long as I don’t have to say the title aloud, I do like it! The summary is … intense. Is it just me, or are we having more and more fantasy YA books that deal with slavery? Since, we don’t really deal/engage with real life slavery that happened/happens in real life, I am kind of hesitant to see how this goes. I mean, I am already biting my lips raw over Sabaa Tahir’s Ember series … So, um, no, please.

Nafiza: I’ve read this. I was disappointed.

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“Devil-at-the-crossroads” folklore finds its way to YA via this moody, magical tale

Blue Riley has wrestled with her own demons ever since the loss of her mother to cancer. But when she encounters a beautiful devil at her town crossroads, it’s her runaway sister’s soul she fights to save. The devil steals Blue’s voice—inherited from her musically gifted mother—in exchange for a single shot at finding Cass.

Armed with her mother’s guitar, a knapsack of cherished mementos, and a pair of magical boots, Blue journeys west in search of her sister. When the devil changes the terms of their deal, Blue must reevaluate her understanding of good and evil and open herself to finding family in unexpected places.

In Devil and the Bluebird, Jennifer Mason-Black delivers a heart-wrenching depiction of loss and hope.

Steph: I like the cover, but it had me expecting a sort of Mexican folk tale or something. The back copy, though more American in folk lore, sounds pretty cool too. It’ll be interesting to read about a character who gives up her voice (and who isn’t the Little Mermaid). The story does ring a bit too American for my tastes, generally, but then again when they are done well I always enjoy the stories of the great open road and the American Dream. I think I’ll be picking this one up.

Janet: The cover isn’t bad; unfortunately, there were ads all over the skytrain a few months ago (come visit Portland or wherever) in this style. I’m well done with it. Blue’s story – and her three pieces of equipment – are appealing, and the folklore-and-family premise is a goodie. I’ll wait for Steph’s review.

Yash: Heh. The title sounds like a country song. I think the cover is really cool and I like the style a lot. (I feel like I’ve seen this style on Tumblr but the name of the artist eludes me.) Again, the summary is a bit intense. I don’t know if I’m really feeling that, but cover-wise and synopsis-wise, it seems perfectly good. If Steph gives it a thumbs up, I’ll pick it up some time.

Nafiza: Ooh, this is interested. I’m not really enamored with the cover but I do like the synopsis. I shall possibly give this a try.

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When the Langur monkey troop rises to power on the dusty streets of Calcutta, it is at a price. A brutal massacre drives the Rhesus troop out of the place they called home and forces them to embark on a dangerous journey. But one Langur monkey, Mico, is prepared to stand up to the tyrannical Langur regime and fight for truth, friendship and love. As Mico uncovers the secrets and lies at the heart of the corrupt Langur leadership, he quickly realizes he is playing a dangerous game. And when monkeys turn on each other, there can be no survivors…

Steph: Well this is right up my alley. This cover is so striking (even if the little skills in the eye sockets is over-the-top) and I enjoy the flip of the usual “Only the strong survive” with the “Sustain the weak. Destroy the strong.” I can just smell the contemporary Western culture critique and I’m itching to read this. The back copy is so succinct and gives us just enough of a taste–very nicely done. I’m so in. It’s coming my way right now.

Janet: This is so Steph, and so not me. The socio-political commentary is maybe a little too evident, but also very seductive. I’ll wait for Steph’s review?

Yash: Is this going to be an Animal Farm type satire, but … with monkeys? Aaaanywayyyy, while maybe the story isn’t for me, I am loving the cover. The stark colours, the skull eyes, the playful title … it just all works. And I agree with Steph, I do like that tagline. Very cool.

Nafiza: What Janet said. I like the tagline too.

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Veronica Mars meets William Shakespeare in E.K. Johnston’s latest brave and unforgettable heroine.

Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don’t cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team’s summer training camp is Hermione’s last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.

In every class, there’s a star cheerleader and pariah pregnant girl. They’re never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she’s always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn’t the beginning of Hermione Winter’s story and she’s not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

Steph: The cover is actually pretty great, the female front and centre in a very strong and athletic pose, it’s very alluring. But, though I love the tone of Hermione and how she is going to face this problem, I just don’t really love this kind of “problem novel”–wait, can we even call this a problem novel? I feel like that’s kind of insulting to the strength that Hermione is giving off (and her read-alike Veronica Mars as well). Maybe this is just not my sort of mystery. I couldn’t stick with Veronica and I have a feeling I just won’t be able to get into this either. I’m rooting for you Hermione and I hope you get your justice, but I won’t  be reading about it.

Janet: We’ve done this cover before, haven’t we? I know I’ve seen the title and synopsis on The Book Wars. I like that cheerleading is acknowledged as an actual sport, which is the case in Canada (for girls and young women, anyway. The BC Lions cheerleaders? Not. at. all.). And I really like Hermione’s grit as suggested by the second paragraph. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

Yash: Steph! Steph! No! The rape storylines in Veronica Mars were absolute crap. This I have faith in. And I feel like this is another one of those books that I’ve heard such good things about and am so looking forward to, that the cover could have been done on MS Paint and I would have been, “YES”.

Nafiza: I don’t like the cover but the title and synopsis are great. I could get behind the cover if not for the palette. As it is, meh. However, I possibly will give this a read depending on Yash’s review.

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A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

Steph: The Cover for me is a no, I’m not a huge fan of the staged photograph on covers–BUT this is a Hamlet retelling and Hamlet is a girl and so… now I’m torn. I just don’t know guys! I know Cat Winters is a respected author . . . Maybe? I’m a solid maybe.

Janet: Whoa, anorexic arms. The cover is very posed and I’m not sure how accurate the clothing and makeup are. Even though there is a POC front and centre this doesn’t make the cut for me. However. The synopsis is interesting enough that I’ll glance inside should I come across this, and make up my mind then.

Yash: I’m excited for this one! I feel like Cat Winters will do this well. (“This” being Hamlet, race, horror all at once.) I do love that we get a WOC on the cover– not sexualized, not hidden in shadows, not with her head cropped off– but it isn’t very nicely framed. The branch above almost makes me feel like she is slouching so she won’t hit her head. I don’t know. Anyway, not the best cover but I am looking forward to it.

Nafiza: I’ve read everything Winters has written so far and enjoyed them all so I’m looking forward to this one. A lot. And YES! A WOC on the cover. I like it very much.

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The moment she learned the horrible truth about her life on Australia, the derelict ship overrun with violent gangs, Chan Aitch made it her mission to save everyone she could from their fate worse than death. But her efforts were in vain. Now, everyone she cares about is dead or in prison, and Chan is more alone than ever before.

As the only person to have escaped Australia’s terrible crash-landing back to Earth, Chan is now living in poverty on the fringes of a huge city. She believes Mae, the little girl she once rescued on the Australia, is still alive – but she has no idea where Mae is, or how to find her. Everything on Earth is strange and new, and Chan has never felt more lost.

But she’ll do whatever it takes to find Mae, even if it means going to prison herself. She’s broken out of prison before. How hard could it be to do it again?

Steph: Ok, this has me intrigued enough to check out the first one. I kind of like the cover, it is a little plain though I enjoy the colour splash–it reminds me a little of the re-covering of Libba Bray’s The Diviners. Honestly, the only thing that has me wary is when the main character “will stop at nothing” to do something, like her life isn’t even worth as much whatever task she sets for herself. I guess Chan hasn’t got much else to live for but . . . I don’t know. Maybe it’s an over-written hero trope? Anyway. As I said, I’ll check out number one. 🙂

Janet: The cover is boring. The name Australia and the inconsistent use of “the” (Australia or The Australia) is confusing. There isn’t much sense of setting. The redeeming feature, however, is the tantalizing last paragraph (minus, as Steph notes, the “she’ll do whatever it takes” part – never a convincing phrase, much less one that inspires empathy for a protagonist). I’d look inside.

Yash: While I do like the cover, I am not sure I like the title. And the synopsis is only slightly confusing since this is book two in a series. I don’t know if I’d read this. Maybe if I pick up the first book someday? Who knows. For now, *pats cover* good cover. Nice cover. I like it.

Nafiza: I like the cover…hey, there’s a girl on a bike! So cool. I could possibly like this one. I think I’d enjoy looking at Earth through eyes that aren’t familiar with it. An interesting premise and yes, I might be interested enough to hunt down the first one.