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Book Cover Smackdown! November Steampunk Edition: FIDDLEHEAD vs. ROMULUS BUCKLE & THE ENGINES OF WAR vs. UNCRASHABLE DAKOTA

Here’s another book cover bout, this time focusing on steampunk books releasing next month.

Your mission should you decide to accept it, is to tell us what you like and dislike about these covers. Which one is best? Do any of them make you want to check out the book?

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest (Tor Books – November 12, 2013)

Young ex-slave Gideon Bardsley is a brilliant inventor, but the job is less glamorous than one might think, especially since the assassination attempts started. Worse yet, they’re trying to destroy his greatest achievement: a calculating engine called Fiddlehead, which provides undeniable proof of something awful enough to destroy the world. Both man and machine are at risk from forces conspiring to keep the Civil War going and the money flowing.

Bardsley has no choice but to ask his patron, former president Abraham Lincoln, for help. Lincoln retired from leading the country after an attempt on his life, but is quite interested in Bardsley’s immense data-processing capacities, confident that if people have the facts, they’ll see reason and urge the government to end the war. Lincoln must keep Bardsley safe until he can finish his research, so he calls on his old private security staff to protect Gideon and his data.


Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston Jr. (47North -November 19, 2013)

The frozen wasteland of Snow World—known as Southern California before an alien invasion decimated civilization—is home to warring steampunk clans. Crankshafts, Imperials, Tinskins, Brineboilers, and many more all battle one another for precious supplies, against ravenous mutant beasts for basic survival, and with the mysterious Founders for their very freedom.

Through this ruined world soars the Pneumatic Zeppelin, captained by the daring Romulus Buckle. In the wake of a nearly suicidal assault on the Founders’ prison city to rescue key military leaders, both the steam-powered airship and its crew are bruised and battered. Yet there’s little time for rest or repairs: Founders raids threaten to shatter the fragile alliance Buckle has risked everything to forge among the clans.

Even as he musters what seems a futile defense in the face of inevitable war, Buckle learns that the most mysterious clan of all is holding his long-lost sister in a secret base—and that she holds the ultimate key to victory over the Founders. But rescuing her means abandoning his allies and praying they survive long enough for there to be an alliance to return to.


(Looking for artist info!)

Uncrashable Dakota by Andy Marino (Henry Holt and Co. – November 12, 2013)

In 1862, Union army infantryman Samuel Dakota changed history when he spilled a bottle of pilfered moonshine in the Virginia dirt and stumbled upon the biochemical secret of flight. Not only did the Civil War come to a much quicker close, but Dakota Aeronautics was born.

Now, in Andy Marino’s Uncrashable Dakota, it is 1912, and the titanic Dakota flagship embarks on its maiden flight. But shortly after the journey begins, the airship is hijacked. Fighting to save the ship, the young heir of the Dakota empire, Hollis, along with his brilliant friend Delia and his stepbrother, Rob, are plunged into the midst of a long-simmering family feud. Maybe Samuel’s final secret wasn’t just the tinkering of a madman after all. . . .

What sinister betrayals and strange discoveries await Hollis and his friends in the gilded corridors and opulent staterooms? Who can be trusted to keep the most magnificent airship the world has ever known from falling out of the sky?

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.

12 Comments on Book Cover Smackdown! November Steampunk Edition: FIDDLEHEAD vs. ROMULUS BUCKLE & THE ENGINES OF WAR vs. UNCRASHABLE DAKOTA

  1. Melanie Goldmund // October 19, 2013 at 1:02 am //

    The covers from both Fiddlehead and Romulus Buckle absolutely make me want to grab the books and read them. They both just scream “Steampunk action!” The cover for Uncrashable Dakota is, in comparison, downright staid, almost boring. (Though I came here from where there is an excerpt from Dakota, and after reading it, I put it right on my wishlist. But only because of the writing and not because of the cover.) Of the first two covers, Fiddlehead wins for me because it shows a woman in action, without any hint of romance or sex or anything like that — just pure “woman in action.” And the leather jacket, the gloves, the goggles! Just plain cool. But Romulus Buckle isn’t far behind, because of action (again!) and zeppelins.

  2. Fiddlehead is my favorite. Great action, great composition and great contrast. Also, what I like about Cherie Priest books is that all have the same style and aesthetics. This one is no exception.

    Romulus Buckle has a nice illustration and typographic work, but it lacks a little bit of contrast.

    And Uncrashable Dakota… it is pretty, really pretty. Nice composition and style, but, yeah, side by side with the others looks boring.

  3. The covers Priest has gotten for her series “pop”, and Fiddlehead is no exception.

  4. I’ve loved all the Priest covers thus far and this one is no exception.

    I don’t agree about the Unsinkable Dakota being boring. I like how they actually incorporate some graphic design elements: the circles, the woodgrain texture, into the image.

  5. Definitely #1

  6. M. Purvis // October 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm //

    Number 2 most definitely! Buckle is my new favorite book! Can’t wait to read this one. Amazing!

  7. My favorite is the Fiddlehead cover (no power in the ‘Verse can stop her!), but I don’t see what it has to do with the book synopsis. The description seems to be about a black male protagonist who is a computer geek so why is the cover a pretty white lady who is shooting things? Are we supposed to assume that she’s the security detail? If you are going to show people on the cover, why ignore the protagonist?
    I like the third one next best because it reminds me of topo lines.

  8. Why is Romulus Buckle shooting lasers blasts out of his butt?

  9. The Romulus Buckle cover has some anatomy problems. I keep looking at the left arm and thinking there must be a tentacle in disguise under the coat sleeve, because it doesn’t seem to bend like a normal arm.

  10. Fiddlehead #1
    Romulus Buckle #2

    Jon Foster is top dog in this showdown. The Fiddlehead cover is well composed. I like the action/dynamics just a bit better than Eamon’s, whose cover is also good. Priest/TOR has a great series of covers. Fiddlehead fits well. My only critiques, I’ll save for myself.

    Uncrashable looks like a rough draft, needs a lot of work to fix. The elements, roughly photoshopped together, don’t make for an appealing cover.

  11. You guys are awesome – thanks for including me! But just FYI… Jon Foster didn’t do this cover, or the cover for the previous book, The Inexplicables. Those two are courtesy of Cliff Nielsen. (But Jon *did* do the earlier covers, so the confusion is entirely understandable.)

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