The OF Blog: What's in a cover? Six covers depicting a singular novel in very different ways

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What's in a cover? Six covers depicting a singular novel in very different ways

Below are six covers for the fourth Witcher novel by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski.  Last year, I finished reviewing all seven (or eight in Spain for the 1st editions) volumes of the Geralt series, but I did make plans to read the long-delayed (five years) Times of Contempt (why the title is plural here is beyond me, as it is singular in the other languages) in English soon after its August (US) 2013 release.  When I bought the e-book edition this weekend, I also saw that there was an Italian edition available and I thought that since I am currently working on improving my Italian reading comprehension that it would be a good idea to purchase an Italian e-edition as well.

I was struck by the differences in covers and as I searched for .jpgs of the two English-language editions and the Spanish and Italian editions, I came across images for the original Polish and French editions as well.  I found each cover to represent something markedly different from the others, enough so that I thought I would post brief thoughts on each cover:

Polish:  The Polish cover is simple, yet it captures an important scene from the story.  The unicorn perhaps is a stock fantasy beast, yet its appearance next to a (presumably) dead body seems to indicate many things transpiring within the narrative that aren't baldly spelled out.  I liked this cover for how it plays up and then hints at something different to the fantasy setting.

Spanish:  Depiction of Ciri, one of the main characters in this series.  Decent image (better than the original Spanish edition of a weapon), but the image is a bit too stiff and there isn't much of a sense of the character here.

French:  Why do I think this cover might be a good candidate for Good Show Sir?  It's so antiquated and doesn't really fit in with what actually transpires within the novel.  If I hadn't already read the series, covers like this would have likely dissuaded me.

Italian:  Now this cover is much better, as it captures Ciri and her balance of youth and later rough experiences quite nicely.  It feels like photoshopped and I like the use of colors here.

UK:  This is a reused cover from the Spanish edition of the second volume (not yet available in English translation), The Sword of Destiny.  Yennefer is pictured here.  See above comments about the Spanish cover, although this one I liked a bit more due to the prominence of the character; not as much background imagery to distract.

US:  Uh...uh...wha?  The image looks like Geralt is battling that sandpit monster from Return of the Jedi.  The lettering, however, is decent, but wow what an off-putting cover.

What about you?  Which covers did you like/like best?  Which ones should have been rejected before publication?


srs said...

So is the gal on the ground in the French version the same character as on the cover of the Spanish and Italian versions?

Having not read anything in this series, I think I like the Italian and UK covers. The Spanish one is ok but not good enough for me to pick up the book. I would probably avoid anything in the style of the Polish and French covers.

Larry Nolen said...

Yes and no. Yes, in terms of appearance it looks like Ciri, but no in terms of it depicting actual action from the book.

If I were to rank them, I think it would go:

1. Italian
2. Polish
3. UK
4. Spanish
5. US
6. French

Larry Nolen said...

Oh, and apparently the US cover was in turn taken from the French cover for the sixth book:

Still not great, though.

Anonymous said...

I like the first one better. As you say it evokes a particular scene from the book rather than being a standard cover.

Btw Larry, could you reduce the size of the squirrel animation under 'follow by email' or put something to freeze it please? (It's a bit of a eye-sore when reading your lovely posts :))


Michal said...

I have the edition with the first cover. I actually think the original Polish cover was probably the most eye-catching for me, personally, though it would likely turn off quite a few folks:

^This was the one I first saw as a teenager in a bookstore in Poland, so that might explain why.

gero said...

Hi Larry,

maybe you want to have a look at the German cover:

All the covers of the German Witcher (or "Hexer" as it is in German) edition are in the same style, which is quite unusual in German fantasy publishing. Usually you'll see a bloke with a hood or some kind of weapon on a German fantasy cover.

What do you think about the approach of German Sapkowski publisher dtv?

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