UK vs US covers ROUND 2!

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Turn of a Friendly Card - Part 2 by Alan Parsons Project.

Since I had a heyday braincrunch over the merits of UK vs. US covers of Throne of Glass last week, I ran out of space and time to discuss my other perplexing quandry for another upcoming book that is due to be out soon. You must remember that this is unusual for me. I am usually a stout fan of US covers. Nothing against other covers (in fact, I love to collect them. Remember my trip to Thailand where I hunted for AGES to find a book in Thai? You have no idea how hard it was. It nearly killed me) but in many cases the US cover strikes a chord with me.

And here I am again left debating the merits of both covers. Ready for round 2? Let's go!

The book in question? Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.

And now, the covers.



Now this one I feel is going to be a lot more ambiguous as I try to describe it. You see, this story is an Asian Steampunk. Do I really need to go on past that point? Oh, if you insist. :)

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.

But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.

Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

So you see, there are griffins, steampunk, and a save-the-empire all wrapped up in tantalizing Asian setting. I like me some steampunk, and I certainly have nothing against griffins. All of this chalks up to a "sign me up please!" story. But onto the covers.

They've both picked a very similar palette, which I love. They are both beautiful in their choices of colors.

You can see from the US cover they are already giving hints of the steampunk world, that this is not the kind of Asia you think you might be stepping into. This is important, so you don't expect one thing and then get the rug pulled out from underneath you upon stepping into the story. At the same time, the font is styled so that it pays homage to that culture, which is very nice.

Whereas the only sense of place in the UK cover is a beautiful, but very old-looking structure that might be Cambodian (please correct me if I'm wrong), and I believe this is meant to take place in an alternative Japan. There is no sense of the steampunk world in this cover. Though I absolutely adore the typography they picked for this cover. It is gorgeous.

However, I love the composition of the UK cover. It flows wonderfully from one image to the next. By placing Yukiko in the lower right corner it is following the rule of thirds. In fact, I believe the center of her body is directly in the rule of thirds. From there your eye flows down the point of her outstretched sword (I love how much it conveys about her character in such a simple, but active posture), leading you straight to the little city I pointed out earlier. From there your eyes follow the points of the buildings right up the S of the title and the circular symbols beyond. At this point, your eyes catch the color of of the flowering tree whose branches lead your eye straight back to Yukiko. It's fantastic. It follows a very natural progression that lets your eye take in all of it, and more importantly, linger there.

And then of course, in the very center is the title, not being intrusive, but a natural part of the picture, inviting and enveloping.

But where are the steampunk elements? The US cover has a lot going for it, especially if the story is to be considered. I've already mentioned the steampunk typeface, but there is also a direct representation of the griffin, weaving more of the story into the cover.

And is that a tiger's hindquarters I spy? Do you know how cool that would be if that is actually in the book?!

The color and composition is also something to be noted here. It is easy enough to see with the griffin picture, but encompasses the entire cover. Do you notice the dark gray on black? Not only does this stark contrast help the book to really *pop* it also gives an ominous atmosphere of foreboding. It looks like a storm is coming (natural or manmade), or a war that is already here, complete with smoke and a blood red sky, things I am sure were not unintentional. High kudos there.

Sadly, placing Yukiko front and center on this cover actually makes her blend in, because it has been used so much in covers of late. Double for having her back half turned. There is also less places in this composition directed for the eye to wander. The direction of her pulling out her katana leads nowhere and is a sadly missed opportunity.

Here is a closeup of her tattoo. I do not know what it means, but let's hope it has some significance to the story. I do love foxes, and the expression on its face lends to help this girl seem like a fighter. Do you notice the dark clouds and flowers present here in her tattoo as well?

But this? What's the point of this?

It makes it look like she isn't wearing underwear and I have no idea what they intended by that. This is one thing that does bother me about the cover. The best I can come up with is they are trying to sexualize her when there is no need for it. This cover may have won outright without the weird "extra skin" inclusion. The Yukiko on the UK looks fantastic, a fighter while still retaining the complexities and frailties of a human character. The US's closed, contemplative downturned eyes help lend to this idea, but the US girl does not feel quite as... real to me.

So this is a complex conundrum, because the US cover nails both atmosphere and story far better than its UK counterpart. Yet the UK cover is so easy to sink into and let your eyes wander and linger. I've caught myself looking at that one plenty. But it tells so little of what the story is about. If it belonged to a high fantasy Asian-inspired story, it would be golden.

So do I buy US from my local indie or import from the book depository when the time comes? Which cover do you find yourself liking more? I'm so torn!


Kirthi said...

Hi Heather!
I prefer the US cover. It has a more...mysterious and lovely feel to it.


Enna Isilee said...

I still like the US cover better, though hesitantly. If it weren't for that strange bit of butt/hip skin, it would win hands down.

Vanessa said...

Perhaps it doesn't fit the story as well, but visually, I prefer the UK cover 100%.