I will judge a book by its cover and I will not be made ashamed thank you very much. As much as we all love a good rant, here I will talk about book covers that I think are particularly good and why they’re good. As with almost everything on this blog there will be a good deal of spoilers in these posts as good covers will always tell us something about the book they’re advertising. In the end, covers are advertising and if you don’t have a good cover it’ll be harder, but not impossible, to sell people on your book. Alright let’s get to it.
So I admit I’m a little biased about this cover partly because it is hands down, one of my favorite covers of all time! I’m very attached to minimalism, and graphic design is no exception. I’m a huge fan of negative space and this cover has plenty of it. There’s just so much in this cover that communicates this book amazingly well.
First, we have a man stepping from a black circle to a red circle. The symbolism of the color black communicates death and destruction or emptiness (I think it’s also worthwhile to say that you CAN design something absolutely stunning with limited colors as this cover only has three). Red is the color of blood and it’s interesting the designer choose this color the man is running to. But as black so clearly represents death, red must most obviously symbolize life as its natural contradiction. Generally, we don’t think of red as something that’s necessarily good to see (i.g. you’re so mad you’re seeing red; I see your blood which means you’re bleeding which is bad), which is why it’s an unusual choice. But of course, as early as the first chapter we understand this red circle stands for Red London and the Red River which essentially gives Red London its life.
Let’s talk about Kell a little more. First, his cape. From just the cover, we don’t know why, but his cape trailing behind him indicates urgency and a strong desire to be away from the black circle. His red cape indicates his allegiance or connection to Red London so we know he’s not running away from home. He’s likely running back to the safety of “home” or familiarity. We couldn’t very well give him red hair as that would just blend into the cape so why give him white hair instead of black hair? As a publishing company in the United States, Tor is heavily influenced by Christianity. Therefore giving Kell white hair instead of black hair would indicate the kind of person he is. Kell is overtly a good person. You could also interpret his white hair as a symbol of status. He’s important in this world. And we find out very quickly from the book Kell is extremely important, as he’s the last person in Red London who can travel between the Londons.
And finally the circles, the centers and what is outside them, which is to say negative space (not dead space). People who are familiar with the maps or layout of London will recognize the Thames right away and this tells us where it takes place. In addition, the fact that the map is in the two separate circles is connected tells us these places are connected even though they are different. The negative space represents the outside boundaries which Kell wants to live his life, but can’t because the presence of the London’s ties him to Red London and to the Maresh house.
What do you think? Is my analysis spot on or do I need to rethink my priorities. Let me know in the comments below!