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Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Spellbound’ vs. ‘The Heir of Night’ vs. ‘Wild Cards I’

Hope you’re ready! 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.

31 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! ‘Spellbound’ vs. ‘The Heir of Night’ vs. ‘Wild Cards I’

  1. I’ll be honest, my friend Blake’s probably going to give me a hard time, but Wild Cards is the best, to me, closely followed by Spellbound.  You don’t get a real sense of the kind of action of the story in the other two as much as you do in the Wild Cards cover.  It speaks of adventure and fun.  Heir of Night looks dark and depressing, and we don’t get a sense of what else might be happening.  Spellbound also, we can only see that a dragon and swordplay will be in it.  Not much else about the story.  And this series is a great series of stories, a unique take on epic fantasy.  But the Heir and Spellbound covers would lose out on a shelf next to Wild Cards if I had to choose one book to buy based on the cover because the Wild Cards cover tells me there are the kind of stories in it with adventure and action, which is what I’m after.

  2. I agree with Bryan, the Heir of Night cover is depressing. On first glance all I see is red. The Wild Cards cover is a guy with a gun – this just doesn’t do it for me either. But the Spellbound cover…now that is my favorite. Look at that dragon!! I love the colors – the riches and boldness – and the sense of movement. There is an air of mystery too that fans of Spellwright will pick up on immediately. Spellbound is my pick.

  3. Joanthan Eli // October 21, 2010 at 12:35 pm //

    I like the looks of Wild Cards I it looks like a SiFi cover and gives you some kind of idea what you’re getting into. It would be the one I would pick up if I was in a book store.

    Jonathan Eli

    ‘The Last Cabbadeum’


    No question in my mind: Spellbound is the best. The colors and framing of the picture is excellent, and I like the runes that someone pointed out in the dragon, which really fits with Charlton’s world. Wild Card is okay, but there’s something off about it – I can’t put my finger on it. The Heir of the Night is utterly forgettable. 

  5. I will be the lone dissenter then. I like The Heir of Night best. The other two look like every other fantasy book cover I’ve ever seen, the art is good, but pretty standard (Wild Card especially reminds me of Maxfield Parrish’s style). THoN is edgy, hinting at real menace. The first two look like fun romps, THoN suggests something darker, and I guess that’s a personal thing but it appeals to me more.

  6. I don’t really like any of them — they are all too static and in a way too generic. The one that appeals to me the most is the Wild Cards 1 cover, it has a certain pulpish appeal, conveys the greatest sense of adventure. However, I might be getting that vibe because I already know the book, while I don’t know the others. If I were standing in a bookstore and determined to buy one of these three, the cover to Heir of Night would be the one most likely to make me buy it. But none of them really inspire that.

  7. I am going to say Spellbound, because it uses colors in a smart way to get the necessary attention without irritating like The Heir of Night does, which is all red and harder to look at. Plus I like dragons and while the Wild Cards cover does look interesting, it’s not something entirely new as concept and pose. Now having a dragon not hostile towards the protagonist,  that is a story I am interested in reading.

  8. Hmmm… Thinking as a bookseller that runs the SFF section in the store, I’d have to go with Spellbound. 

    Wild Cards seems like it belongs in the biographies section, as if it’s a stylized photo of a pilot during the first world war; The Heir of Night is cool and striking but would probably only appeal to UF or PR readers (a generalization, yes, but that cover would leap at them – I’d certainly pick up the book and at least read the blurb, as I’m liking UF more and more); Spellbound calls to mind all the cool stuff – a kickass dragon (and people will always check out a dragon to see if it is indeed kickass), a human (the link) and the runes (clever detail to pull in the eye to study the cover). Like it or not, it’s more representative of SFF (thanks to movies and such, sure) and so will probably receive the most attention on the shelf.

  9. Denise Golinowski // October 21, 2010 at 12:54 pm //

    Wild Cards I would be first choice because it’s active, immediately draws me in with a promise of action and adventure in a fantastical world.  The aviator look – flying scarf, goggles – just yanks me into another time and gets my mental wheels whirling in anticipation.

    Spellbound is a close second because fantasy is my true love, however, the cover feels ambiguous to me.  A little cliched.  The palette is pleasing and the fluid lines attract, but it loses to Wild Cards I by feeling less urgent.

    Heir of Night is too edgy and ominous to my eye.  If that’s the goal, then well done, but I wouldn’t pick it up.

  10. Personally, I think that the cover for Spellbound is the best.  It grabbed my attention more than the other two.  The artistry is outstanding — the detail on the dragon is fantastic.  The font for the author’s name and the book title work well with the cover.  I can look at the cover and know it is a Fantasy novel.  I can’t tell at all what The Heir of Night is about by the cover — is it fantasy, horror, or what?  The cover for Wild Cards I doesn’t immediately say “science fiction” to me.  The only thing that reads sci-fi is the starship in the background.  Take that out and it could be historical fiction.  Spellbound just seems to represent its given genre the best, in my opinion.

  11. Kei Malone // October 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm //

    Spellbound is my favorite. The artwork is phenomenal, especially when you look at the details. Todd Lockwood’s interpretation of the world Blake created shows why he is a master of fantasy art.

  12. I also like The Heir of Night cover the most.  It is the 1 that would draw my interest at a store or on-line.  It conveys armed conflict & low tech while stimulating my curiosity about the contents.  The Spellbound cover says “generic fantasy novel about a friendly dragon(s)” to me.  The Wild Cards cover is still misleading.  It says action-adventure but it doesn’t inform the reader that it’s fantasy about people with super powers.

  13. Presented with all three at the bookstore, the first I’d pick up is “Spellbound” because it has a dragon on the cover. 

    The second, “The Heir of Night” because it might have an interesting female protagonist and, as mentioned previously, I’d at least read the blurb to find out more about the storyline even though I dislike the cover design (although it’s not as bad as the lingering format of women’s bums on UF cover art as discussed rather well over on Juno books

    As regards the third: to be honest, I’d probably completely ignore “Wild Cards 1” because I have no interest in reading yet another gun-toting male quasi-hero story, and have even less interest in the steampunk genre at the moment…although I might check out the blurb since I’m familiar with some of the author’s other writings, especially since you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover….   🙂

  14. The Wild Cards cover is all kinds of awesome. That one is the best. A bold pulp hero, a zeppelin, and America. Great stuff. The dragon cover is ehhh, kinda generic and the red one just makes me think about how good Braveheart was and now I don’t care so much about that book.

    Pulp is good.

  15. Wild Cards One Wins, Hands Up, for Beautiful, Thoughtful Art.

    Heir of Night Inherits the Title, of Second Place – Hair of the Mad Dog which Bit It.

    Spellbound, ‘Spite its Funky Font, Creaks in at Third Place, Buoyed on the Wings of the Way Back to The 80s Machine – or Dragon, as The Case May Be.




  16. my vote goes to Spellbound. i will always be drawn to paintings that look like paintings. While i love Kormarck and Lockwood I have to pick Lockwood’s cover here. I know Kormarck can let his paintings have a painterly feel while at the same time having near photographic detail. Either the image is too small to notice this or it was art directed out of the piece but it really feels a bit too “i want to be a photograph” when there is no need for that when a painting can capture so much more emotion a photo could only dream about.

    The best thing The heir of Night has going for it is the fact that it went with the absolute best color combo for what looks like a 3 color job. its really hard to go wrong with black, white, and red. While it is a valid design direction for a cover it just feels like its in the wrong category to be lined up next to paintings. It would need other design oriented books to contend with. It feels like putting a Klee in between a Homer and a Sargent and asking which is a better painting.

  17. Jenny Jordan // October 21, 2010 at 5:30 pm //

    As gorgeous as that dragon is, Wild Cards wins it for me, hands down — I’m a bit of a history buff on top of being a science fiction/fantasy fan, so the WWII Aviator look (complete with wind-blown scarf!) really does it for me.  I’d seriously consider buying that one when it comes out.  Heck, I’d buy a print of the cover art for my wall, if it were made available!

    The Heir of Night looks too much like every other Urban Fantasy novel out there.  And why can’t we see the top of the poor girl’s head?

  18. Wildcards looks like the most fun.

    Spellbound.  A dragon.  Yawn.

    Heir of Night. Probably some kind of vampire thing.

    But Wildcards looks exciting at least.  Good colors.  The wind is blowing.  Just looks better.

  19. I would have to say i find Heir probably has my favourite cover out of the three, I like that its a bit dark and depressing, it tells me that the book might have some guts to it.

    Spellbound is probably my least favourite of the 3, to me it just states anemic fantasy…. move on by. That said I do enjoy the artwork itself.

    As for Wild Cards, I feel disappointed by this cover at it illustrates what is the weakest story in this shared world anthology. It made me laugh to see the book described as steampunk, as the novel is anything but that, however I completely understand why Tanja thought that looking at the cover. To me this cover does nothing to sell the book that I know exists within its covers (I am a huge fan of the Wild Cards series), that said I must admit I am at a loss to think of how any artwork could express the awesomeness that is the Wild Cards……

  20. Spellbound.  Can’t get enough of that atmosphere, and of course dragons.  Love the colours…and the artist is constantly amazing.


    Wild Cards is well done!  However, not into guns and guys with pilot gear, but it is beautifully done.


    Heir, well it’s nice, but wouldn’t catch my attention.

  21. Andrew Liptak pointed out that something feels “off” about the Wild Card cover. I think it is because it is affecting an antique look without getting it quite right. It’s too modern in it’s style which is makes it seem “off” to my eye as well. It’s like trying to imitate early 70s prog rock without using Mellotrons, analog synths or fuzz effect on the guitar — it just wouldn’t sound authentic.

  22. None of the above for me.

    But The Heir of Night would cause me ignore it on purpose, because again this cover screams “vampires” but it doesn’t appear to be about them.

  23. My vote goes to Spellbound. I’m a sucker for dragons and I love the colour scheme. Besides, Todd Lockwood is an artistic genius, I adore his work.

  24. I vote for Spellbound.

    I think if an artwork can make you wonder whats inside the book , it serves its cause perfectly.

    In this case, Spellbound’s cover does that really well since one can’t stop to imagine what those flying things are, and if there is a connection between the runes on the dragon and the gravings on the ground.What is the dragon protecting the woman from? A threat from the sky? 

    I can imagine myself holding Spellbound for 2 minutes in a book store, staring at its cover , then decide to buy it because of the glimpse of story that’s illustrated on it.

    The Heir of Night is too boring and doesn’t give a clue about the story within other than blood.Looks like a simple manipulated stock photo.

    Wild Cards, if it wouldn’t be a “book cover”, it could be considered a nice illustration.  Sky covers up most of the background.Sorry but that isn’t enough to get attention and gives us no clue about the story within.And what about the clouds in front of his legs? If they would blend smoothly or if we could see such effects on other parts of the image, we could say it was an artistic touch but at the moment they just look out of place. Well , it lets me say that other than the 6 balooned zeppelin, there’s nothing interesting in this book.

  25. Todd Lockwood.

    Cause I’d prefer fantasy themes

  26. One of the reasons I chose the Wild Cards I cover was because of the intriguing detail of the clouds billowing *in front of* the figure’s legs.

    Wild Cards is a series about superheroes – and this suddenly changes the perspective:  not a man standing on a rooftop with a distant city and dirigible in the background, but quite possibly a *GIANT* city-sized man with a monstrous gun, large enough to have clouds billowing around his legs like some sort of colossus of Rhodes with a BFG.

    I might be reading it wrong, but that was my impression & what made me keep coming back to study it more.


  27. E – go read and find out, you won’t be sorry 🙂

  28. Ugg. I’ll pass on all three.

  29. None.  All are cliche or just plan bad.

  30. Holding a gun? A sword? *yawn*… Holding a Dragon, YES! 🙂

  31. It’s “The Heir of Night” for me, because the cover speaks of action, threat, danger and … um … well, you know,  ‘chicks in chainmail.’  And more seriously, it looks to me like someone has actually put some thought into getting the armor details right.

    Followed by Wild Cards 1: I don’t really like the artisitic style but the cover offers the sense of ‘possibility’, which sadly, the Spellbound cover doesn’t at all. To me to just says “boring same old same old” with the dragons.

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