Here’s a fun post at tor.com, and thanks to commenter Robert for pointing me to it: Do You Know Who Illustrated This Classic Wrinkle in Time Cover?
This post is by Molly Templeton, and here is the cover she means:
If you are of a certain age, you remember it well: The creepy, haunting, downright iconic—and totally weird—cover of the 1976 Dell edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. But while many of us remember being scared by (and/or fascinated with) this image, there’s an unexpected mystery behind it: No one seems to know who the artist is.
I remember this cover! Oddly, I remember only the narrow-winged armless centaur. I don’t recall the creepy face at all. Perhaps that’s not odd, since I was always going to notice mythological creatures far more than creepy mask-like faces. Regardless, apparently the artist is still a mystery.
Regardless, Templeton is right. This cover is totally weird.
Robert then started me, no doubt on purpose, down the rabbit-hole question of What Is The Weirdest Cover Ever. Here’s his submission in this wild and wacky category:
Words fail me. I presume this is one of the apparently common instances when the publisher slapped a completely random cover on a book without the least regard for the tone, style, subgenre, or actually even the genre of the book in question. Apparently publishers sometimes literally used to have a file of unused covers and just pick one out at random for whatever book was up for publication next.
If you’re curious, here’s a post that shows various other covers for The Princess Bride. I think my copy is the one with the girl on the horse. That one is certainly far, far preferable to the above peculiar mess.
If you poke around looking for the worst fantasy book covers of all time, you will see plenty of contenders that give this terrible Princess Bride cover a run for its money. Here is my very favorite:
I am particularly enjoying the above because of the unexpected theme of “terrible fantasy covers featuring centaurs with strange arms.” I wouldn’t have thought there could be more than one cover in this exceedingly specific subgenre of bad covers, but here we are.
The above covers are so bad that they even make the many and terrible covers for the Vorkosigan series look pretty good. Or at least somewhat less terrible.
Anyway, here is a good cover featuring centaurs:
There you go, centaurs with normal arms.
This is of course one of the books in Nick O’Donohoe’s Crossroads trilogy, The Magic and the Healing, Under the Healing Sign, and The Healing of Crossroads. They are not linked into one series page … and, I am not finding ebook versions. Who published these? Ah, Ace. Well, Ace, what the heck is wrong with you? How about you bring out ebook editions? I guess Ace let these go out of print and O’Donohoe hasn’t got the rights back, or isn’t interested in bringing out ebook editions. That’s too bad, because the first book is excellent and the other two pretty good. (I’m downgrading them because of personal irritation with one specific detail that might not bother anyone else.)
Anyway, the protagonist is a vet student — in later books, a veterinarian, no longer a student — with an interesting and unique practice. Also serious problems, as Crossroads is at hazard for various reasons. My own vet gave this series two thumbs up for the medical details. AND, I know I have mentioned this before, but I’m going to mention it again: the protagonist here was the first time I specifically noticed an author making a character smart and perceptive without every saying, or having anyone else say, “Oh, look, she’s so smart and perceptive.”
I don’t mean O’Donohoe bludgeoned the reader over the head with BJ’s brilliance and perception and that’s why I noticed this part of her character. I don’t want to imply that. He did a great job and I just happened to sit up straight and say, “Look how perceptive she is! And the author never even says so! It’s just part of who she is! Wow, that is so neat!” It was something I was ready to notice as a reader, I guess, so it really struck me.
Writing smart characters without having to tell the reader that the character is smart is something every novelist needs to learn how to do. I mean, if any of your characters are ever going to be smart and perceptive.
Okay! Any other centaurs you particularly like in fantasy? Normal arms or otherwise, but I bet the above are the two weirdest centaurs pictured in all of fantasy.