The covers for the first 13 Wheel of Time books (fitting, that number) and New Spring were provided by the late, great Darrell K. Sweet. Like Robert Jordan before him, Sweet died before the series could be finished, and artist Michael Whelan provided the cover for the final book, A Memory of Light. Given that, I will only rank the 14 Sweet covers in this post.
I’m partial to hardcovers sans dust jacket, and the only Wheel of Time books on my shelves (as the blog banner shows, I have a complete set in hardcover) with the dust jackets still on are The Eye of the World, The Dragon Reborn, The Path of Daggers, and A Memory of Light. Sweet’s covers are much maligned. They sometimes commit egregious canonical sins, such as the far too human trollocs on The Great Hunt cover (one of the better covers nonetheless). They tend to butcher human proportionality. And any depiction of Perrin is nothing short of disastrous.
Say what you will about the Sweet covers technically, but it was the cover of The Eye of the World that made me pick up the series. And that is my reaction to pretty much any Sweet cover. I want to read that book!
- Lord of Chaos
The Wheel of Time, bodice-ripper. And a bat-draghkar thrown in for good measure.
- Knife of Dreams
- Winter’s Heart
Ugh, Perrin. At least we get snow.
- The Gathering Storm
I hate pretty much everything this cover, from the out-of-place manor to Rand’s weird arm. But at least we get a The in the title, which was apparently important to cover quality.
- Towers of Midnight
First mistake: no The in the title. It suffers from being overly derivative of the Crossroads of Twilight cover while: coming later, not having horses (and Mat looking like a baller gaucho), not depicting any snow, and having an inferior woodland depiction on the back cover (no, I didn’t bother to actually download the full cover).
- Crossroads of Twilight
No The! Also, the wretchedness of the book probably bleeds out from the pages inside somehow. Otherwise, see above.
- The Fires of Heaven
The depiction of Rhuidean is great. The trollocs are not obviously humans wearing horned helmets (appearing rather to be rat-men wearing horned helmets).
- New Spring
A poor man’s The Eye of the World cover.
- A Crown of Swords
Shadar Logoth is eerie, eldritch, and alien. And that hawk-headed trolloc! It’s like a walking owl-bear. (This is an undiluted good thing. Shut up.). And it gave us powerwalking Rand.
- The Shadow Rising
Ignore the wagon and focus on the awe-inspiring depiction of the Aiel Waste.
- The Great Hunt
Egregious trolloc error notwithstanding, I love it, not the least because it was long my favorite book and for Rand holding aloft the Horn of Valere.
- The Dragon Reborn
Rand reaching for Callandor among the pillars of the Stone and Ishmael staring out at me from the spine are iconic to me. I also love Sweet’s depiction of the Aiel.
- The Eye of the World
The moon is too big, and Moiraine probably too small. There is an extra character back there, and the draghkar just looks like a bat. But it is why I picked up the series. Lan and Moiraine look like bad asses. It perfectly evokes the archetypal epic fantasy Quest.
- The Path of Daggers
Everything about it is gorgeous—it’s the only really great piece of artwork among the Sweet covers. The roughly drawn clouds and mountains in the distance. The great, broken statue that dominates the back cover. Rand riding a stallion with horse tack decorated with the ancient symbol of the Aes Sedai, wearing a ridiculously over ornamented coat and the Crown of Swords, wielding a sword with a curved blade. The Tairen soldiers in their conquistador-inspired armor and helms stretching back into the distance, with the Dragon Banner and the Banner of Light prominently displayed.