Undercover: Clariel

The long-dormant Undercover series features the design quirks hidden under hardcover books’ dust jackets.

Kakaner and I have both been binge-re-reading Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, building up to an attack on the two latest: the extra-dark prequel Clariel (which neither of us had just read), and the just-released sequel Goldenhand.

While I really, really do not like the over-the-top, video-gamey new hardcover designs, removal reveals a metallic Charter mark (the symbolic basis of the Old Kingdom’s magical system):

book-clariel-undercover-1 book-clariel-undercover-2

Satisfactorily magical!

To resume griping: I know illustrative covers are out of fashion, but as an American reader, the switch to covers that scream “I WAS DIGITALLY RENDERED” feels particularly disruptive because the original American editions of the Old Kingdom books were beautifully designed and had such a coherent visual identity, built off of Leo and Diane Dillon’s elegant, grim, chilly illustrations (see middle row here). I bought Sabriel purely because of the cover art – I was quite young, and hadn’t ever seen anything quite like it before, inhabiting the borderlands between fantasy and horror as it did. It took me an oddly long time to actually read the book after buying it, but in the intervening years I would still pick up the book just to wonder at it – Sabriel’s severe gaze and ceremonial gesture, her mysterious bells, Kerrigor’s slitted grin.

I wish we had gotten the chance to see the Dillons illustrate Clariel. In the meantime, her hardcover and Goldenhand will be running around my house naked, as it were.

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Undercover: Pretty Monsters

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