US vs UK book covers: fantasy novels

Sarah Zatko commented that it would be possibly more fun to compare US vs UK covers for the kinds of books we all actually read. Totally true! So this morning I went and found a post — not quite as recent, but only a few years old — that does exactly that.

I don’t think I pointed out this post back in 2017 when it was published, so that was a chance missed. On the other hand, it’ll be interesting to have those literary covers in mind when you look at these 14 mostly-SFF covers.

Okay! So, let me take a look, and you can all join me in picking your favorites and least favorites. I wonder if any of these will strike any of us as actually repellent?

1) The Caravel. I like both covers, though not sure the black background strikes me as super enticing. If I have to pick one, I lean toward the US cover. I like the curvy font better than the straight-line explosion type of cover on the UK version.

2) Strange the Dreamer. You know, I still have not even read the sample. I think I find the whole idea of this book sort of intimidating. I feel like I’ll have to really focus on it, which makes me put off starting it; and I think it may be rather tragic? Is that right? Which I have to be truly in the mood for. But as for the covers, definitely the US cover.

3) And I Darken. I have never thought much of that US cover. I think it was ridiculous to hide the “I” in the swordblade. Nothing about piercing a flower with a sword appeals to me, either. I don’t really like the UK cover, but at least you can easily read the title. I have to go with the UK version this time.

4) An Ember in the Ashes. I prefer the US version. This could be because the US version has a fantasy vibe and the UK version a possibly-SF-not-sure vibe, or something.

5) The Hate You Give. Don’t like either one. Thus we see that no, really, literary-style covers are not super appealing to me even when the book is YA.

6) And the Trees Crept In. Wow, what a creepy title. They changed the title as well as the cover for the UK edition. Vastly, vastly prefer both the US cover and title. Not remotely a contest. I am dying to know if UK readers actually somehow prefer their version. I just can’t believe anyone would.

7) Mistborn. Is that also “Mistborn” on the UK side? They’ve given it a different title again. But this time, to my surprise, I believe I prefer the stylized UK cover.

8) Throne of Glass. Not much to choose. Image is the same, just dark background / light background. I go with the light background of the UK version.

9) Heartless. Definitely the US version, but actually I don’t like either cover much at all.

10) My Lady Jane. The UK version. I like every single thing about it better than the US version, but most particularly I like the “not entirely” interpolation on the title, which, if present in the US version, is invisible.

11) Nevernight. Great title! I prefer the US version. I agree with the author of the post that the tagline on the UK version is really great, though I can see why the design people didn’t put a tagline on the US version.

12) Alice. Congratulations, book design teams! You have produced a really repulsive cover that makes me take a biiiiig step back from this book. I don’t like the UK version much, but I loathe the US version. Awful. And I was just beginning to feel safe, too.

13) Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Oh, now, this is a tossup. Unlike the author of the post, I don’t care about story relevance. But I do think perhaps I like the UK version better, even though I like the blue of the US cover better than the muted red of the UK cover.

14) A Darker Shade of Magic. The UK version is all right. The US version is just dead boring. Completely uninteresting.

Okay, let me count … That is only six votes for the US title, six for the UK version. And two where I honestly dislike all the covers, even if not quite equally. This is a much more even split than I would have expected, and yet here we are.

For me, the biggest difference is for Strange the Dreamer. I greatly prefer the US version of that one. Oh, and The Trees Crept In. Ditto for that one, not that I much want to read it, looks too horrific for me.

Okay, how do they look to all of you? And does anybody actually find the US cover of Alice remotely appealing?

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5 thoughts on “US vs UK book covers: fantasy novels”

  1. My likes and dislikes match yours pretty much point-for-point. The US Alice cover is supremely awful. At least the UK one has an interesting look to it.

    For favorite, I’d probably choose the UK My Lady Jane. It’s a least a little different from the usual generic covers we get nowadays.

    None of them are Michael Whelan, though.

  2. They’re all pretty awful or ‘meh’. The US Alice though was really going for repulsive. I wonder if the book tanked?

  3. I definitely like these better than the other set, but I wish covers with illustrations instead of these graphics-focused ones were more in vogue. I liked the UK Mistborn one – not into the photorealistic images of main characters, especially when we just get them on a plain background. I dislike Throne of Glass’s cover, for example.

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