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Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Journeys’ vs. ‘Kraken’ (Limited Edition) vs. ‘Elric: Swords and Roses’

As the crowd chants, the ringmaster raises his hands. Silence overcomes the hungry masses. It’s time for another Book Cover Smackdown!

Here are the contenders…

Your Mission (should you choose to accept it): Tell us which cover you like best…and why.

Books shown here:

NOTE: Bigger, better cover art images are available by clicking the images or title links.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

24 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Journeys’ vs. ‘Kraken’ (Limited Edition) vs. ‘Elric: Swords and Roses’

  1. Kraken by China Miéville basically gives you what it says. Nothing exciting or eye catching so its my least favorite.

    Journeys by Ian R. MacLeod is very intriguing. The cover grabs my attention. I wonder what is the journeys they mention. What do the elephants have to do with it. Are the elephants on a journey? What brings a herd of elephants to town? It at least gets me interested enough to read the blurb to see what its about.

    Elric: Swords and Roses by Michael Moorcock would have to be my favorite. The colors are very eye grabbing; they are bright and would pop out at a book store. The background, I am assuming, is a rose which is part of the title. The flaming sword is awesome. The black horse with the white-faced man just makes all the colors and images stand out. The font of the work Elric is very cool, too. The whole cover just screams “PICK ME UP”. Plus with a name like Moorcock, its gets a +1 Coolness Factor.

  2. Caitrin // July 15, 2010 at 2:51 am //

    Kraken all the way. The colors are gorgeous, the artwork is soft and I love how the tentacles curl up around the name of the book and the author. The font is awesome. It’s a book that makes me want to pick it up and read it. I don’t feel that way about the other two, if I was going specifically by cover I would never pick them up.

  3. I love John Picacio’s art on Elric, but who chose that font for the title?  It looks like someone painted graffitti on the cover.

    “Kraken” is a good design, but that “K” bothers me.  I understand that it was an attempt to add depth to the cover, but it was unnecessary and cheapens what is otherwise a very good cover.

    “Journeys” is my favorite this time.  I don’t know anything about the book or the author, but the cover image makes me want to read the book to find out the story behind it.  I really like the color chosen for the title; it works with, yet stands out from, the background.

  4. Journeys and Elric are easily the best covers of the group.  Though, the Elric cover does something I usually don’t like…shows me what the main character looks like.  I like imgining that myself, but the artist manages to not screw it up, which is rare.

    I don’t dislike Kraken as a cover, as I think neutral covers work the best.

  5. Normally, I prefer covers that feature a person in a frozen moment, but the Elric cover shows us nothing new, Elric being Elric. However, the Journey cover provokes my attention. I want to know why those bull elephants are stampeding through the city. Well done!

  6. Journey is my favourite of the 3, its different and intriguing… its not often we get elephants on the cover of a novel and seeing a herd of them heading out of town makes me want to know more.

    Kraken is ok, but it seems a bit bland and anaemic for a cover to one of China’s novels.

    Elric… is totally uninspiring to me, as Johne says its just Elric being Elric with no frame of reference. To my mind it just makes the book look old and dated… if you want to entice new readers to this world then you need to have a cover that tells new readers that these old books are worth reading!

  7. I think Kraken is my favorite, although I do really like Journeys. 

  8. Remember, this is about the cover, the entire thing, not only the artwork.

    Elric – thumbs down (although I love the artwork the text – which covers half of the cover – ruins it as a cover, especially the white used for the title).

    Kraken – thumbs down (interestingly you chose the UK version – I bought, and finished reading last week, the US version, whose cover is a thumbs up).

    Journeys – thumbs up! A cover with beautiful, soft, artwork, with the only text being the title and author’s name, which is all that is needed on a cover. And the title is a variation of the sky behind it, which blends in but also stands out well. I just ordered this book from Amazon.Com – a successful cover definitely.

  9. Err, unless I’m missing something that cover for Kraken isn’t the UK cover, it’s the cover to the limited edition by Subterranean Press.  The UK cover can be seen here:

    I any case, I think Kraken is the best of the three with Journeys a close second.

  10. @Simon: Ack!  You’re right.  Some people shouldn’t be allowed to blog. :s  Fixing now…

  11. My first reaction – I immediately liked the cover of <i>Kraken</i> best but then I had to ask myself, “Am I just thinking that because Mieville is my favorite author?” But after thinking about it for a few minutes, I still think it’s my favorite. I like the colors and tentacles are always interesting.

  12. John’s cover for Swords and Roses is very visceral and powerful.  He’s captured Elric’s demonic visage, the enchanted Stormbringer feeding him unearthly power while Elric gives the sword his friends and foes alike.  That terrible bargain is written across Elri’c face, and he shouts the end of everything to the multiverse.



  13. John Picacio’s Swords and Roses all the way! A background rose that doubles as a Doctor-who-esque tunnel in space-time, a colouring that screams of blood, and a visage that shows exactly what it means to oppose the last emperor of Melnibone: fear and death.

    In second place, Chon’s Kraken – a bit too similar to Peter Bentley-esque covers to get the top spot.

    As for a heard of elephants in a city: whatever eh?

  14. Charles R. Rutledge // July 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm //

    Hard call, because all three have some real strong points. I’m going to go with Swords and Roses, because A. It’s Elric, and B. it’s one of the single strongest images I’ve seen of that character. The dynamic poses of horse and rider and the overall energy of the cover are really impressive. And Elric looks like Elric should. I came up with the Michael Whelan covers and this one is right up there with those. Very very cool.

  15. Alan mcwilliam // July 15, 2010 at 5:40 pm //

    Easily Mr Picacios amazingly evocative Elric for me.

    My favourite Elric cover by a long way!

    The other two are nothing special but John P brings out a part of Elrics character that we dont usually see in other covers.

  16. Dave Hardy // July 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm //

    While Kraken is a nice, albeit low-key, design and Journey’s has those elephants heading out of Dodge, my favorite here is Picacio’s “Sword’s and Roses.” Furious, dmon-sword weilding, albino, wizard-emperor. John captures it vividly! -Dave

  17. Kevin McCabe // July 15, 2010 at 6:36 pm //

    I have to cast my vote for John Picacio’s cover illustration for Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Swords and Roses. All are fine illustrations, but Picacio has captured an important aspect of the Prince of Ruins. I have been reading Elric for getting on forty years. Moorcock’s tragic and, ironically, humane anti-hero rarely finds peace from the interior demons that haunt him. Sometimes, he briefly experiences peace with a beautiful princes such as Zarozinia. More often, however, the last dragon emperor loses himself in the fury of battle. The complete screaming battle abandon of Elric and his hell blade Stormbringer is captured perfectly in this phenomenal piece by John Picacio.

  18. For years, Michael Whelan’s Elric was the definitive version of the character for me. It wasn’t until John Picacio that Whelan had a rival in my mind/heart. His work throughout this entire  Del Rey series reissue has been phenomenal. And I’m going to shamelessly post the cover he did for us, which portrays Elric as Count Zenith the Albino. The Metatemporal Detective

  19. Mark Young // July 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm //

    The Elric cover is the only one that holds my attention. Perhaps the green in the other two turns me off, but they wouldn’t make me want to pick them up in a book store. As Lou says above, John Picacio has done some fantastic work for Moorcock’s books recently. The typeface on the Elric is standard for the other Del Rey volumes.

  20. Paul D. Wright // July 16, 2010 at 4:16 pm //

    I’m a fan of Elric, so that gets my vote.

    The cover of that just seems so much better to me. I can’t explain it, but there you go.

  21. Elric : of course.

  22. BizarroGuyLawley // July 17, 2010 at 3:39 am //

    Kin ‘ell! The standard UK and US Kraken covers are useless!

    This is the best of the 3 by far. I like it a lot.


    Journey is an intriguing image for sure.


    But it’s Elric for me!

    Truly sinister, powerful stuff. With the right touch of evil in the character.

    This guy is the hero? Eeek!

    I really don’t want to meet the villians.


    Colours jump out too.

  23. Pietro_M // July 23, 2010 at 2:23 am //

    I’m definitely going for the Elric cover. It’s just so full of swash. The other two covers don’t really give me a clear idea of what to expect from their book’s contents. Is it fantasy, horror, SF, or tales of a zoological nature, I should be expecting?


    I like the Zenith cover, too. Although, that also plays on a bit of insider knowledge, to clue in the potential reader. A little post-modernist gendre playing going on there.

  24. Pietro_M // July 23, 2010 at 2:28 am //

    I meant, ‘genre play’, of course.

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