Book By Its Cover: Tor.Com

Do you judge books by their covers? I…must confess… I do. I can’t help it; I’m a visual person! That’s not to say I won’t read a book with a tacky cover… It just means I will search high and low for an alternate cover or make my own cover for it or cover it with a blank sheet of paper with only the name of the book written on it because I would rather look at a blank white cover than a tacky one.

Anyway, Claire and I decided to get bitchy about book covers, but we’re not outing bad ones. We’re celebrating some of our favourites starting with who are NOTORIOUS for beautifully illustrated covers. And let me tell you, this. was. hard. (At least it was for me. I don’t know if Claire already had her 5 picked out from the jump; we didn’t discuss our choices.) So let’s all take a minute to get shallow and consider the way our favourite (and not-so-favourite) stories are visually presented.


It’s weird because I’ve actually followed some of these illustrators (and met one or two in person or spoke to online) before I even started reading Tor books and it feels like a weird reunion with an acquaintance?? I duno. Maybe I’m just a sad, lonely person. But, without further ado, I will present my 5 painstakingly picked, favourites.

1. BookByItsCoverNikki2Anna & Elena Balbusso‘s cover of Leigh Bardugo‘s The Too-Clever Fox

I read The Witch of Duva, whose cover is also a beautiful Balbusso duo illustration, but it’s this one that has appeared to follow me around (or am I following it?) and sticks in my head and makes me stare and it and look back and pick out the details again and again. It perfectly fits what I gather to be the feel of Bardugo’s fairytale-esque novelettes and, as with many eBooks, this cover makes me a little sad this isn’t a physical book to admire the work in person. They’re not the first illustrator twins I’ve come across, but they’re probably the first who work together on illustrations like this.

Claire’s 5-Cents:
Yes, yes, yes and to all the yes’ you can come up with. I quite like this duo’s work. The Witch of Duva cover totally captivated me and this one is equally brilliant. If Nikki hadn’t have beat me to it, I might have picked this as my top 5.


2. BookByItsCoverNikki3Richie Pope‘s cover of Richard BowesSleep Walking Now and Then

I kind of just wanted to post all of Richie Pope’s covers here actually. He’s just really damn good. Some of the stories he’s done covers for, I’m just not that interested in, but the coverrrrssss!!! They make me want to be interested. (Maybe I’ll just have a skim through them…)

Claire’s 5-Cents:
I admit I had to look at the other work Pope had done to see the big deal. It’s not that his work is bad, it’s amazing, but it doesn’t appeal to me. That being said looking at this cover more it’s quite smart, the falling guy as the elevator pointy-thingie, quite smart indeed.



BookByItsCoverNikki43. Sam Bosma‘s cover of Micaela Morrissette‘s Porn and Revolution in the Peacable Kingdom

What a beautiful cover for what probably could have easily been terribly gaudy. It makes me automatically think there’s more to this story and I want to know what’s going on.

Claire’s 5-Cents:
I mean, it’s hella colorful that’s for sure. It kind of reminds me of Miyazaki’s stuff? In that it’s very colorful and alive. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of this cover though the red and lips and title certainly do make it appealing. Furthermore, I like how the title was framed within black strips, it looks like censure blocks to me- and the fact that the title is Porn & Revolution adds to that.



BookByItsCoverNikki24. Jillian Tamaki‘s cover of Harry Turtledove‘s We Haven’t Got There Yet

I just love this cover so much. I don’t know if I can put it properly into words. It’s simple and uses mostly flat colour and is decidedly modern, but simultaneously so Shakespearean. I’m probably going overboard. Whatever, I love the simple perfection of this cover.

Claire’s 5-Cents:
OK, so what Nikki isn’t saying is that she’s a huge, huge, Tamaki fan (not to say that’s why she chose this cover, she chose it because it’s good and appeals to her). But there is something about Tamaki’s aesthetic that makes everything she does… smart. Every line is confidently drawn, and everything is purposeful.



BookByItsCoverNikki35. Red Nose Studio‘s cover of Terry Bisson‘s The Cockroach Hat

The only thing this story has going for it in my opinion is its cover. siiigh. Chris Sickels(aka Red Nose Studio)’s gorgeous handcrafted figures are fantastic in any case, but he brought so much life to this story and consequently conned me into reading it (though after a point I was just skimming). A truly brilliant cover.

Claire’s 5-Cents:
Ummm, I don’t quite like this cover? Not that it’s bad (actually, let me say that you’ll never hear me say that some kind of artwork is bad, I don’t think that they’re is bad art just maybe, bad egos behind the art, not that that’s the case here!) but that it doesn’t aesthetically appeal to me. I think this is one of the arguments that Nikki and I have had in the past, that I’m too firm in what I like and don’t like? That being said, the cover is well done. It looks like it was modelled from clay? I’m not sure how the illustrator did itbut it’s well done.


BookByItsCoverAsh11. Sam Weber’s cover of Rachel Swirsky’s A Memory of Wind

I reviewed this for a previous post, it’s one of the first posts that I’ve ever done actually! But I’m looking at it here because it’s cover is just so darn awesome. I love the fragmented and frozen pose, her face. Everything, and once you read the story you come to see how brilliant the cover is. It’s a rare achievement to accurately reflect what you’re illustrating (in my opinion) and Sam Weber does it well.

Nikki’s Verdict:
WELL, I’m ready to be pilloried, but I’m not a huge fan of the kind of realism that is abundant in SF/F. There, I said it. Now, I can totally respect the skill that has to go into it(!)…but I also can’t help but think “just take a photo and add filters (IG’s ‘Rise’ filter, perhaps?) and effects as desired.” BUT I know I’m in the minority. I actually like some of Weber’s slightly less realistic work or work that couldn’t (easily) be a photomanip better. I imagine the work is far more impressive in person than on a cover/screen/basically anything not ‘in person’.


BookByItsCoverAsh22. Karla Oritz’ cover of Anna Tambour’s The Walking-Stick Forest

I haven’t read this story and it’s actually on my TBR but again, it was added because I was surfing the net and fell in love with the cover. Why can’t we see her face I wonder? With all of the thorns and cuts and scrapes she has, and her falling-like pose, call me intrigued.

 Nikki’s Verdict:
Similar comments to the previous, but this cover handles the monochromatic blue colour scheme so well. (Not at all biased because blue is one of my favourite colours, of course.)




BookByItsCoverAsh33. Yuko Shimizu’s cover of Matthew Sanbord Smith’s Beauty Belongs To The Flowers

I’ve also reviewed this for a past post and it’s becoming glaringly obvious to me that what I chose to read is very much influenced by its cover or packaging.

I thought the overall color scheme and chemical, medicinal look appealing as it is juxtaposed next to the peaceful sleeping woman and beautiful flowers. I’m not sure Nikki would like this (or, err, any of my choices) but this is one I’d like as a print please! I’m not sure I’ve seen other covers by this artist and I wonder why, why not more?

 Nikki’s Verdict:
WTF, Claire??! I am a Shimizu fan. And I rather like this cover. In fact, this is my favourite of all the ones you’ve chosen haha


BookByItsCoverAsh44. Tran Nguyen’s cover of Genevieve Valentine’s The Insects of Love

I’ve been following Nguyen’s blog since I was in high school and she in the early stages of college and her artwork. I’ve come to adore her aesthetic and I was pleased as punch to see a cover by her at Tor.Com. Her style or aesthetic seems to be a bit murky and emotional, good for illustrative purposes I guess? I knew it was her the minute I saw this cover too! She has such a specific style, it’s almost melancholic. Either way I love it and I am duly hooked.

Nikki’s Verdict:
I have soooort of similar feelings about Tran Nguyen’s work as the previous realism-ish pieces except that I like the way she tends to add flat shapes to break it up (often her work has included flat gold shapes – here it’s paper-feeling butterflies) which is nice.


5. Jon Fosters’ cover of J. T. Petty’s Angel SeasonBookByItsCoverAsh6

OK, I haven’t read this one either I must confess but I really, really, want to. LOOK AT THIS COVER! Actually, it could also be a video game cover and I’d snatch it up in a heartbeat. I think it’s intriguing and it gives you just enough information to be interested: We know it’s about angels, with potential eye blasting thingies? Or destructive qualities? After reading Angelfall and Daughter of Smoke & Bone I’m on a definite angel run and to see a dynamic cover for it is excellent. Y’all don’t understand HOW MUCH I love this cover.

 Nikki’s Verdict:
Not really my thing, but that’s cool, brah.




Do you love/hate any of the covers we’ve chosen? Have any other cover favourites you wish we’d mentioned? Tell us your picks or pick some bones with ours in the comments!



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4 Responses to Book By Its Cover: Tor.Com

  1. Pingback: Looking Back & Forward: 2014 Survey with 2015 Resolutions | Bitches With Books

  2. I really like the cover from The too-clever fox, because it really captures the essence of the story. We haven’t gone there yet is too weird for me, haha. The walking-stick forest reminds me a bit of The forest of hands and teeth; I like it. Angel season has pretty colors and I also like the cover from The insects of love.

    • Claire (BWB) says:

      Excellent! I see you mentioned a few I included 😉 but in all seriousness, a cover is a big thing to me and can quite make or break a decision to read something or not.

    • Nicole says:

      Haha, “We Haven’t Got There Yet”‘s cover is probably an acquired taste for many avid SF/F readers. But I’ve found that the books with the less mainstream SF/F covers are a slightly different breed of SF/F to match! Sometimes I like to shake it up 😀

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