It’s 4am, another semester is on the books, and I am awake. Why not crack open a beer and participate in Friday Face-Off? This week’s theme is:
“Those darling bygone times… with their delicious fortresses, and their dear old dungeons, and their delightful places of torture” – A cover that is positively medieval
Friday Face-Off is hosted by Books by Proxy. Books by Proxy has been shirking lately, so if you want to see another post for this week, check out Tammy’s post over at Books, Bones & Buffy. I am going to take this opportunity, any opportunity, to plug one of my favorite fantasy series of all time: The Traitor Son Cycle. You can read my pitch for the Traitor Son Cycle here. Already in the know? The fifth and final book in the series is a finalist for the David Gemmell Legend award.
Looking back on The Traitor Son covers is appropriate because the series is as medieval as it gets. I saw another, lesser blogger denigrate the first book as “vambrace porn.” Cameron is better known as a writer of historical fiction and it shows in his attention to detail. But like any good non-SF writer entering the SF pond, he doesn’t so much as dip his toes in fantastical elements as do a full cannonball.
If you pay any attention to fantasy covers in the US and in the UK, you are sure to have noticed that UK covers tend to be a little artsier, a little more pretentious, a little less obviously fantasy. I am happy to tut tut and pull out the relevant J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis quotes, but to be honest I usually prefer the UK covers. I mention this because The Traitor Son covers flip that convention. The UK covers are openly fantastical, the US covers almost look like historical fiction until you notice the little dragon flying in the background. I’m going to stick to the US covers. Let’s take a look, starting with…
Not bad. But this is not vambrace porn–there is nary a vambrace to be seen. We can do better.
Better! Just look at that vambrace! And the helmet–it’s so pokey! But still we have no visual confirmation that this is in fact a fantasy novel (though I suppose the title now provides a strong suggestion). We aren’t ashamed of our healthy fantasies around here. Onward fantasy soldiers.
Is that a dread wyrm I see flying in the distance? (Also: points for the underused word “wyrm.”) But I’m going to have to ding this cover because: (1) that fellow should really be wearing gauntlets, and (2) I like a longer haft on my sword. Next!
Look at that haft! And the title promises not just one sword but a whole plague of them! (By the way, I’m a big fan of the font they use on the covers too.) And maybe there is a real plague in the book too! I’m not telling! Why am I using so many exclamation points it’s like a students email! Okay, I’m better now. One more:
LOOK AT ALL THAT HAFT. The spear on the cover is an esoteric weapon called a “ghiavarina.” As Cameron describes it, it is a shortish spear (say 7-8′) with a heavy, straight, double-bladed spearhead, making it good not just for thrusting but also for cuts. The ghiavarina is good for killing men in armor, or epic fantasy books. We do have the dragon in the background again. The same dragon? I’m not telling! Modern fantasy covers have the bad habit of showing people standing around instead of actually, you know, doing cool, fantasy stuff. Points to The Fall of Dragons cover for showing someone trying to kill a person. Bonus points that it is you, the reader!
But which of the five is my favorite, and the most medieval? I do love The Fall of Dragons cover and the ghiavarina, but I am going to have to go with The Plague of Swords cover. I love, love, LOVE that cover. And with some battlements sneaking in there in the background, it is particularly thematically appropriate.
So, what do you think? Which of the Traitor Son covers do you prefer? Maybe you prefer the UK covers over the US covers? Is there another particularly medieval cover that tickles your fancy?