Friday, April 2, 2010

The Prince of Nothing [Cover Art]

Everyone says not to judge a book by its cover, but I'm not sure how you're supposed to avoid doing that. I can think of quite a few books for which cover art made a large part of the experience for me, and I'm not just talking about ultra-deluxe Subterranean editions. One example of absolutely excellent cover art is, for me, the original Prince of Nothing covers, especially The Darkness That Comes Before:

I love the combination of history (the buildings on the bottom), character (notice the lack of a hood), and, most of all, an incredibly exotic feel. Now, I can't really rationalize most of those, but the cover art was a big part of why I first picked up The Darkness That Comes Before. All artwork obviously doesn't have to do that much for me, but I prefer it when it doesn't do the opposite. Unfortunately, that seems to be precisely Bakker's new (Croatian) angle. Stealing ever so gracefully from the Blog of the Fallen, I present to you what is quite possibly the worst set of covers that I've ever seen:

Or, perhaps even worse, this:

I especially like how Esmi is evidently so bored by the fight that she's busy falling asleep. Or how, in the first one, the barbarians are being battered back by the dust cloud caused by the dragon Kelhus is flying on. Well, okay, he's not actually flying on the dragon, but I'll be damned if it doesn't look like he is. Oh, and I like his glowing eyes and nose.

I don't think I can imagine two images that less convey the feeling of the text inside. Prince of Nothing is somber, dark and complex. This is none of those. I've got to say, I don't think I would've been all that motivated towards a purchase based on those.


  1. I know, those covers are just appalling and totally inappropriate for the material inside. I picked up Bakker for the first time, totally ignorant of what it was about (I saw it at a library), because the US (or maybe it was the UK) hardback cover for The Warrior-Prophet looked absolutely fascinating.

    I've got to ask - why is it that fantasy books have such awful covers? Is there some incredibly powerful Cover-Artist Union in the fantasy literature publishing business that must be appeased?

  2. You know, for most bad covers, it still makes sense to me. Your standard hooded guy cover, for instance, is sickeningly bland...but it sells. Alright, I guess I can, if not accept, at least understand that. But something like this? What on earth is the rational behind it? Are they seriously assuming that someone is going to see a poorly drawn Kelhus throwing lightening, while Esmi sleeps and some dudes fly around, and that guy's going to realize that s/he HAS TO HAVE THIS BOOK? Somehow, I'm not seeing it.

    Ah well. At least these are better than, say, the Wheel of Time originals. You can at least laugh at these.

  3. I am another that bought Bakker's book purely on the cover. The cover sucked me in and the back blurb sold me. Never had this happen to me before.

  4. I have the Croatian version bought and the pictures look far, far better on the book then they do on a PC (where I admit they look ridiculous ^_^;).

  5. Fairly old post, but...i cant resist. Guys, for real? The 2nd picture is Cnaiur holding his chorae with Baiut behind him (about to be immolated), its from the begining of the first book, end of The Battle of Kyuth (Conphass nansur versus Scylvendy), the black robed man is not Kellhus but an Imperial Saik sorcerer. The last picture portrays Esmi and Achamian who is about to attack overwhelming odds, the traitorous nansur army coming to attack their inrithi brethren while they fight with Kianen for Shimeh (end of book three first trilogy), again, the black robed sorcerers are of Imperial Saik. Last but not least, Esmenet is not fucking bored, she is terrified of what shes witnessing (yap, they made love in those ruins a while ago, shes emotionally peaked .-) P.S. i agree, those illustrations give the books no justice, quite poorly drawn and tasteless scene selection