Jan 16, 2010

Covering Covers: The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

Artist Unknown                                             Artist Unknown

Editor's Note: At the time this was written, it wasn't as old news as it is today. Still the US cover sucks and if lots of discussion gets it changed then I'm all for it.

Not to be a content snipe but I saw the UK cover (above right) over at A Dribble of Ink. I think it's okay on the side of good. Based on Aidan's article, I jumped over to Mad Hatter's Book Reviews, which had some very high praise for the book. Abercrombie + Rothfuss. That's like saying Christmas plus Hawaii. So I went to add the book to my Amazon watchlist.

Then I saw the US cover (above left). Say what you will about the UK cover, what the heck is going on with the US cover? I actually like the tree in the background but the hooded guy in the foreground throws the whole cover off. It appears to be traditional hand drawn art. When combined with the stark two-color tree graphic of the background (which I would actually like by itself), it looks like someone tried to sneak a mainstream cover into the SFF section and the GenreGhettoGuard wasn't having it.

I envision a scene in which someone designs that dark tree cover, publishes it, and ships it to the bookstores. GenreGhettoGuard unboxes the editions and is suprised to pull out a book that looks too mainstream for the SFF shelves. His solution? Fantasy sticker! Hand painted cloaked man front and center. Job well done...

Compared with the mess that is the US edition, give me the UK cover anyday. It might be traditional but it evokes the right kind of response. The color and the implied texture of the cover accentuate the fairly standard Aragorn-analog nicely. Cloaked-guy-with-sword appears to be the epic fantasy counter to urban fantasy's tramp-stamped heroine. It's done a lot but occassionally it works. I feel like this is one of those times. The US cover though? Pick a style and stick with it. Lemonade is good. Salmon? Also good. Salmonade? No Thanks. (Note: This was actually tried. Don't Ask)

Follow the links back to more descriptions and early reviews. The Left Hand of God is out now in the UK and comes out in June in the US from Dutton.

Unfortunately for Dutton, early releases + better covers + free worldwide shipping = Book Depository LTD for me.


  1. I think that it is one of the best book in the last years because It is so real and is so interesting to read, so I think that this book can win many awards in the next years.

  2. The rise of fantasy has, in my opinion, produced two kinds of cliche-oriented reactions within the publishing spectrum: entertaining, inventive, and/or enjoyably derivative trilogies, and fascinating ideas and worlds mired by barely serviceable prose, lackluster plotting, and/or a general failure to maintain cohesion (in the plot, worldbuilding, character development, and/or the writing). Both groups aren't always separate, since sometimes a book with weak prose can still be a thrilling read, but usually they are. Unfortunately, I think The Left Hand of God fits into the latter of the two groups.


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