The Cover Wars: Sorcerer to the Crown

The Cover Wars: where we most definitely do judge books by their covers. This week we’ll take a look at four different covers of Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown. It’s just that good a book.

The back copy:

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philsophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once-proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as its Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s stores of magic to bleed dry. At least the Society hasn’t stooped so low as to permit women to practise what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royale, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up, an adventure that brings him into contact with Prunella Gentleman, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, and sets him on a path that will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain– and the world at large.

Janet: The red everywhere and the angry dragon weren’t to my taste the first time I saw this cover, but having read the book, I’m inclined to say that this cover does the story the most justice. Without spoiling things, some of the powers with which Zacharias and Prunella work *are* terrifying, and dangerous, and not at all imical to a long and peaceful life. The box is important, and the red is significant; and the texture of this cover suggests that it is hewn into stone, which seems an appropriately grand monument to the characters and to the world-changing that they do. Added to which is the fact that this is the cover on my copy, and you have one very partial Janet.

Yash: Haha, okay, while I agree with Janet’s reasoning, this cover still annoys me. I like the dragon, I love the colour, but there’s something about the design that makes me feel like they’re trying to hint at an “Asian flavour” and that’s just not necessary, I feel.

Jane: I can’t say this is my favourite – there’s just too much of one colour for me, I find it hard to focus on the finer details in the image. I do love dragons, though, which don’t seem to appear on any of the other covers. Honestly, if I looked at just this cover and the final cover on this list, I wouldn’t even think they were for the same story!

Janet: I admire how the swirls and two colours scheme together to create a cover that is at once simple and ornate. This cover doesn’t say a lot about the story, beyond suggesting the time and style (ostentatious ogee everywhere!). I’d say this cover is aimed at adults who feel uncomfortable in public reading fantasy that looks like fantasy. It’s pretty, but uncommunicative.

Yash: I basically ordered this UK edition so I didn’t have to deal with that weird red one and I have no regrets–and I definitely read SFF in public. I love that at first glance it just looks like some ornate detail on a coat, but that centre design makes you look again and again and again. Which is how the story works too. You think it’s one thing, but it’s really not. I love this one. Fancy and yet understated.

Jane: Oooooooh pretty! I really like this cover, so much detail, great contrast between the colours, a great colour scheme, very elegant and classic and mysterious. I would pick this one up.

Janet: The tagline would be more effective if the cover gave a hint as to who “they” are. I believe this is the cover for the audiobook, as well. Not sure what to say about this one, mostly because I can’t figure out what anything is supposed to be. The intricately twining designs are rather lovely, though.

Yash: OOOH, I LIKE THIS ONE! I kinda like the not saying who “they” are. Oh, you thought they were white Brits? Well, surprise low-key-racist! And also, here, have the best fantasy you’ve ever read in recent months. You’re welcome.

Jane: Another pretty cover, but I prefer the one above myself, this one just feels a bit crowded, with a bit too much writing on it. I’d prefer just the tagline, with the quotes on the back.

Janet: The German cover.  (I’d hoped for a lot of translated version covers, partly because this is a superb book and deserves to be widely translated, partly because I like seeing what publishers in different countries do with the cover) Very pretty, because I’m a sucker for blue, and also because the paper edges are finely detailed; I think more dimension would better represent the story, though. It’s a little surprising that this is the only cover with a clock on it. Perhaps clocks are seen as too middle grade? The chains are an interesting addition; the cover making physical the invisible constraints depicted in the story. Cool.

Yash: Wait, who are the birds? Which birb is which bby? Someone tell me! *ahem* Aside from the birds, I agree with Janet. The blue is pleasing, the chains are interesting, and I like how they’re patterned to connect every detail on the cover. I feel like this one is the most thoughtfully done. Save for those birds. What is up with the birbs. WERE THERE BIRDS I FORGOT ABOUT IN THE BOOK???

Jane: Wow, this one looks so different! I like the stormy blues – it feels very atmospheric, and I like the paper cut-out style, with the different buildings showcasing (I’m guessing?) different locations or buildings in the story. This is a very beautiful cover, and…ummm…I haven’t read this book….so…um…please tell me there’s a dandy bird character with a top hat and a monocle in there somewhere? Please?