Yesterday I blogged a review of The Demon's Covenant, the second installment in Sarah Rees Brennan's Demon's Lexicon trilogy. You should not read the review if you haven't read the first book in the series, but you should read the books. They are fabulous.
Last week I asked an acquaintance of mine, who happens to be a connoisseur of YA, if she'd read these books yet. She said, "No, they're on my list ... but have you seen those covers?"
So, let's talk covers. No plot spoilers will be revealed, so feel free to read and jump into the fray...
Here's the background: The Demon's Lexicon trilogy is a YA urban fantasy series that takes place in the UK, mostly in Exeter and London. The main characters are brothers Nick and Alan Ryves and siblings Jamie and Mae Crawford. In the world of TDL, magicians are scary people who summon up demons to gain power. Nick and Alan try to keep those magicians from overstepping their bounds. At the beginning of the first book, Jamie and Mae -- classmates of Nick's at school -- show up at the Ryves house because they've accidentally gotten mixed up in magic and have heard that Nick and Alan help solve weird problems. And so it begins.
So, if we recall, Nick features on both the US and UK covers of The Demon's Lexicon. This makes sense, because Nick is the narrator of that book and it is, most definitely, his story. From left to right, we have the UK cover, the US hardback, and the US paperback.
The UK cover features an illustrated Nick looking sexy and a little bit dangerous. I like how his face is half sheathed in shadow: it suggests mystery. There is a city in the background in silhouette and there are ravens, which feature in the opening scene of the novel. I also love how the typeface suggests the carved lines of the demon circles or, alternately, something brittle and fractured. The red implies danger. Though it is a face cover, I don't think a straight guy would be super embarrassed to pick it up for his sister (I don't think said straight guy will actually want to read it in public, but baby steps.)
The message: This is a gritty urban fantasy with a possibly dangerous male protagonist.
The US hardback focuses on Nick's prettiness -- he is pouty-lipped, and has awesome bone structure and shaggy hair. He is wearing a glowing talisman and in the background, we see a sky crackling with lightning and filled with ravens. I love the font. But there is no action, no city, and Nick looks pensive and sensitive, neither of which are adjectives I would use to describe him.
The message: This novel is about pretty boys and sparkly things.
The US paperback switches gears. It shows Nick in action, in front of mysterious buildings (ruins? city?) with a stormy sky behind him. He has his sword, which gets bonus points, because it features in the very second sentence of the book. It's a bit weird that he's wearing a cloak (when does Nick ever wear a cloak?), but he looks serious and action-y and a little bit dangerous. I like how the red title pops against the background.
The message: Action! Storms! Sword fighting! This novel is dark and dangerous.
Now, for The Demon's Covenant, the differences are even greater.
On the US cover, we see Sin dancing in a ring of blue fire, on a shoreline. Presumably, the fire is meant to be a demon circle, but designed for maximum sparkle rather than following their descriptions in the book:
"The lines between the demon world and the human spun so fast that they seemed to disappear, turned into a shimmering haze like a veil between the worlds. A veil that could be torn. The circle seemed almost to trip into the cold abyss below, like a trapdoor turning beneath Mae's feet." (145)The designer clearly made an effort to put Sin in an outfit described in the book -- "She was wearing whit that reflected the moonlight, material that the night wind sent clinging and fluttering down her body, so thin you could almost see her skin dark and soft beneath it." -- but doesn't quite take it all the way: "Her hair was threaded with silver ribbons, and her skirt was slashed into silver ribbons as well, trailing over and wrapping around her legs as she danced." (138). To me, the image doesn't convey the sense of energy or danger of the demon circle.
My main problem with the cover, though, is that this is not Sin's book, but Mae's. Mae is kick-ass, she has awesome pink hair, and she is the narrator. Did the US publisher think that a pink-haired chick on the cover wouldn't sell books?
The message: This is a story about pretty ballerinas who like to dance in rings of blue fire when they're not going to high school dances.
On the UK cover, we see an illustrated version of Mae looking ready for business in all black, and even though she's not in action, we have an awesome fight scene on a London bridge in the background -- this is urban fantasy--, which takes place in the book. We can't see who the fighting figures are, which keeps the cover mostly spoiler-free, but we get action, London, and Mae.
The message: This book is badass.
The blurb quotes also emphasize different aspects of the book: the US cover emphasizes romance, which the UK cover highlights wit.
The Most Embarrassing to Read on Public Transit Award clearly goes to the US hardcover of The Demon's Lexicon, but the clear winner in this game is the UK publisher, hands down. Not only do the UK covers better convey the setting and atmosphere of the books, they appeal to a wider audience. And, you know, they're prettier.