Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Books covers that stand out amid the darkling crowd

Just got curious and browsed through a reasonable proportion of the 500+ covers of “2018 fantasy novels” at Goodreads. Huge percentage are dark, as expected, but a handful do stand out for being bright and featuring artwork rather than a clipart kind of look. Here are some that caught my eye:

I rather like it. Kind of a dreamy aura to it, appropriate for the title. I never have tried the Green Rider series. I see the first book is $2.99 for a Kindle copy. You know, why not. Sure, add it to the TBR pile.

Not so much a Tad Williams fan . . . probably I shouldn’t say that because I only ever read one book of his, so how should I know? It was Tailchaser’s Song and it fell flat for me because the cats were too much like furry little humans with claws; not remotely like actual cats as, for example, the rabbits in Watership Down read like actual rabbits.

I’ve never read anything else by him, so what do you all think of his books? Either way, this is a lovely cover.

I love this cover. Still haven’t read the novella, though. I read the first tiny bit and liked it. I wouldn’t mind having this in paper so I could turn it face out on the shelves and admire it. Lovely.

Great cover! I would pick this up in a heartbeat if I saw it in a store, even though it really kind of looks like it might be horror-tinged. Who did this cover? … Ah, it’s from DAW. Well, great job, DAW.

Let me see, here’s the description from Amazon:

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic.

But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Her siblings—a widow who conceals a canny political mind in the guise of a frivolous socialite, a young prophetess learning to navigate a treacherous world, and a military tribune leading a dangerous expedition in the province of Iberia—will be her allies as she builds a place for herself in this new world, against the objections of their father, her husband, and the strictures of Aventan society.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?

That’s a very long, detailed description! But certainly I gather this is a novel with the flavors of Classical Rome, and maybe the shattered-tile look of the cover refers to the shattering of Rome itself. I mean Aven. Whatever. Looks like this book is the first in a trilogy.

Hmm, all right, here’s a quote from Kate Elliot: “‘Rome with magic’ turns out to be exactly the novel I wanted to read. The magic cleverly intertwines with religion, politics, and daily life. The characters appeal, especially the loving portrait of three loyal sisters. There are battles (of course), a budding love story of the illicit kind, some remarkably topical political maneuvering, an awareness of diverse layers of class and ethnicity, and a love of place that shines on the page.”

Now, the long description kind of gives me a maybe, maybe not kind of feeling, but this quote from Elliot makes me want to give it a try. I would probably wind up comparing everything about it to Gillian Bradshaw; as far as I’m concerned Bradshaw is the one to beat when it comes to Classical settings.

Okay, Amazon, send me a sample and we’ll see. This is another one I would be tempted to buy in paper so I could see the cover on my shelves.

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4 Comments Books covers that stand out amid the darkling crowd

  1. Kathryn McConaughy

    From Unseen Fire does look intriguing…
    I read some Tad Williams (Otherland, Memory Sorrow and Thorn) a few years ago but didn’t take to it. I felt bad for the characters but couldn’t make myself like any of them. Too depressed & depressing.
    For a book that writes cats as cats, Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass does a great job. The feline character totally steals the show.

  2. Elaine T

    I read Tad Williams’ first four books when they came out and no more. I liked TAILCHASER at the time, suspect I wouldn’t now. His first trilogy was ok – it was trying to do interesting things and he was a local – but his writing’s voice, or something just wasn’t interesting enough. I haven’t read any thing by him in years. Looks like the book pictured links up with that first trilogy, Green Angel Tower. He did interesting things with ‘elves’ in it. Do like the cover.

    Britain… I have a vague memory of trying her very first book and being annoyed. Obviously other people reacted differently.

    That Rome with magic one may be interesting. Or not. I’ll try a sample, I think.

    That is a gorgeous cover on TEA. Too bad I bounced hard off the sample.

  3. Kristina

    The Roman fantasy intrigues me, too. I’ll check it out. That’s what samples are for.

    I liked the first half of the first book of Britain’s Green Rider series well enough, where the protagonist and her mysterious new horse were alone and forced to bond in fulfillment of a definite purpose. But once she got to her destination and the plot and the character list exploded and the horse wasn’t as much of a character, I stopped caring as much. Plus Karigan is SUCH a reluctant heroine. Judith Tarr reviewed it in her SFF Equines series on tor.com, I think, and had a similar reaction.

    https://www.tor.com/2018/09/24/writing-fantasy-horses-right-kristen-britains-green-rider/

  4. Rachel

    Kristina, I can certainly imagine having the exact same reaction. I like the idea of the horse-person bonding section. But we’ll see!

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