Yesterday I ranked the oft-maligned Darrell K. Sweet covers used for the original editions of The Wheel of Time. I like several of those covers a whole lot, but when Tor decided to commission original artwork for the ebook editions, they at least had the opportunity to give a more even experience. And they probably did so, even using a different artist for each cover. Overall I like the new covers more—my final tally in my reviews of each book was that I preferred 10 of the ebook covers and 4 of the original covers. I already have a complete set of hardcovers, but maybe I should add a set of trade paperbacks as well. I do have a print of the new New Spring cover up at my house.
These covers were later used for the new trade paperback editions of the books, with two exceptions, A Crown of Swords and The Path of Daggers. I omit A Memory of Light because it is the only book to get a single cover across formats. Accordingly, sixteen books total are ranked.
I didn’t say anything about my methodology in my previous post, because there isn’t much to say. It’s really just straight up what-do-I-like-more. That is some combination of simple beauty, fidelity to canon, and import of the scene depicted, with a heavy emphasis on the last and especially the first.
- The Path of Daggers (ebook, artwork by Julie Bell)
This would be a really kick-ass cover for an X-Men comic book. For The Wheel of Time, not so much? The effect is way off. And it’s a dubious decision in general to attempt to depict channeling.
- The Gathering Storm (artwork by Todd Lockwood)
The new cover suffers from the same problem I had with The Path of Daggers cover. You have what looks like a book about a badass sorceress fighting a dragon. The badass sorceress you get. But a raken is no dragon.
- The Path of Daggers (trade paperback, artwork by Chris Rahn)
I have a lot of issues with this one. And it’s a failure to improve on a pretty bad ebook cover.
- A Crown of Swords (ebook, artwork by Mélanie Delon)
I love this scene, but the cover doesn’t really work for me. I bet this is one that has left a lot of people confused.
- The Eye of the World (artwork by David Grove)
The artwork is fine and hews to canon, but it also makes the book look more Red Seas Under Red Skies than The Eye of the World.
- A Crown of Swords (trade paperback, artwork by Tyler Jacobson)
I like the depiction of Cadsuane. Rand and the Asha’man? Sweet Jesus.
- The Dragon Reborn (artwork by Donato Giancola)
This is one of only two largely symbolic covers. The flute represents the country boy past Rand is hesitant to give up; the sword represents his future as the Dragon Reborn. Sitting on the Dragon Banner? It was probably just a wet log. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking and camping—logs are usually wet. Smart move by Rand.
- Lord of Chaos (artwork by Greg Manchess)
I appreciate the depiction of Dumai’s Wells, but the attempt suffers from being squeezed into a small area and Sweet does the Aiel much better. The banner version (above the cut) is much better, with the wide angle giving the sweep of the battle, with a hulking Loial, Perrin looking very Druss the Legend, and wolves! This is the only depiction we get of wolves, and that is a shame. It’s also a shame the actual cover doesn’t have all of that.
- Winter’s Heart (artwork by Scott M. Fischer)
This is the second best depiction of Rand among the new covers, and the depiction of channeling works because it focuses on Rand. The shading on his face nicely foreshadows his deepening struggle with the Dark Side, of which the Choedan Kal will play an important role.
- New Spring (artwork by Jason Chan)
Great scene and I love the concept. But the artwork is lacking relative to most of the other covers. The “magic” depiction we see a few times over the course of the new covers works relatively well here, as do the leaves(? flower petals?) swirling.
- Crossroads of Twilight (artwork by Greg Ruth)
Like New Spring above, the new Crossroads of Twilight cover is a great scene and concept dragged down by weak-ish art. It has snow, though.
- The Great Hunt (artwork by Kekai Kotaki)
This is the only new cover that is a “re-do” of the original cover. The trollocs are much better (and I dig the depiction of Loial as well). But why are the trollocs the focus and not Rand?
- Knife of Dreams (artwork by Michael Komarck)
For some reason this one doesn’t grab me, but the more I look at it the more I appreciate how gorgeous the artwork is. It also has a wealth of detail, from Semirhage’s skin color to the Dragon Scepter to Min’s short hair in ringlets to the Dragon tattoo that isn’t a tattoo peeking out of Rand’s coat sleeve.
- The Fires of Heaven (artwork by Dan Dos Santos)
One of the great scenes of the entire series. Moiraine’s dress has a Middle Eastern/Asian cast to it, but that fits with the overall tone of the series at least, and both her kesiera and angreal are shown.
- Towers of Midnight (artwork by Raymond Swanland)
Perrin! So ill-treated by the Sweet covers. So badass here, and in the Crossroads of Twilight cover. Great scene, great depiction of Perrin, and killer art. I love that the entire thing is viewed through the flames of the forge.
- The Shadow Rising (artwork by Sam Weber)
One of only two covers that are really symbolic, this cover works so, so much better than the new The Dragon Reborn cover. Both the ravens and Avendesora evoke Mat’s connection with Odin. The ravens and the shadow across Mat’s face provide foreshadowing. Mat’s ashandarei looks better than it ever did on a Sweet cover and the fox medallion hinting out of his shirt works better than the clumsy depiction from the original The Fires of Heaven cover. The artwork is gorgeous, and I really need a coat like that, just to wear around town. And Mat is striding straight toward the reader, as if to say “I’m going to be your favorite character from now on, or at least until Sanderson bobbles me.”