BLACK HALO by Sam Sykes

Oh, barf.

Now, Sam’s a good friend of this blog (seriously, he’s behind one of my favourite interviews I’ve conducted), but I can’t give him (or, more accurately, his publisher, Gollancz) a free pass here. Seriously, this cover hits on every metric for what’s wrong with Fantasy art today. Overly aggressive and poorly representative of the Fantasy genre? Check. Bland typography? Check. Uncanny valley? Check. Flaming water (wait, what?)? Check. Insane, weird pull-quote that tells you absolutely nothing about the book? Check. Poorly photoshopped H&M model with basic glow filter attached? CHECK CHECK CHECK!

I appreciate the continuity with the series’ previous cover art, but here’s hoping Lou Anders will have the sense to put a better cover on the Pyr Books edition when it’s released in North America.

  • E. M. Edwards November 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Well, how do I start?

    I’m feeling funny because this is the sort of cover I tend to hate and denigrate. But – in this case, I actually rather *like* it.

    Oh sure, all your claims above are technically true but – again, it really I think works.

    The perspective is spot on and creates a very simple but evocative figure. Without the rigging, the cross of flames, and the subtle touch of the darkening skies behind it – it would be pretty boring. But (that’s a lot of buts, I hope Sam is proud) the colour is dramatic and mesmerizing and it grabs the attention and holds it surprisingly well for there not really being much there beyond it.

    Perhaps on this soggy 5th of November I’m just hungry to stare into some flames, any flames, even photoshopped ones.

    It’s a simple, dramatic, slightly silly cover – but I honestly think this is exactly what you’ll find inside the book so it really is perfect. It’s not something deep and its a bit over the top (sorry Sam, but at least it’s fun and has the typical Sykes shameless gusto roaring through it), so why would we want to falsely suggest that the book is something that it isn’t?

    Just my idle thoughts on the matter,


  • aidan November 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Cheers, Eric. The old proverb’s true: ‘One man’s junk…

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Monroe, Aidan Moher. Aidan Moher said: New Blog Post(s) — Two covers: one good ( one bad ( […]

  • Sarah (Bookworm Blues) November 5, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I’m rather indifferent to the cover art on the whole. It is really, really cheesy, but I think there are worse covers out there. There are also better covers out there. The quote on the cover though, that does bug me. It says zero about the book.

    I still need to read Tome of the Undergates. Sam Sykes cracks me up on Twitter. I can only imagine how sense of snark must come across in his books.

  • Patrick (YetiStomper) November 5, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    It’s pretty bad. So was Tome of the Undergates. To be fair, the actual cover art does look better than the flat images.

    Agree wholeheartedly about the Turk comment though.

  • Sam Sykes November 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Hah. I’d actually been waiting for this for awhile.

    This actually was Lou Anders’ operation. Gollancz piggybacked on them this time.

    As for the cover itself? I like it. I understand why you wouldn’t, though. You have been doing this long enough to have developed a refined sense of taste when it comes to fantasy cover art. You’re likely not at all strange to the fact that you’re in a very, very small minority in that. One that just can’t really be catered to.

    I don’t want to come off like I’m shitting on your opinion or anything. I’m just saying that if it’s a choice between getting a pass from the School of Moher or a hundred other people going “oh, cool” and picking it up?

    Sorry, bro.

  • aidan November 5, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    No hard feelings, Sam.


  • The Evil Hat/Nat November 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I actually really like it. Now, it’s big, dumb, and literally on fire, but it’s so big, dumb, over the top and on fire that it stops being silly and becomes awesome. I mean, come on, the WATER is BURNING. That’s so hardcore it doesn’t even make sense anymore.

    If you’re going to be epic to the point of ludicrous, you might as well be really epic to the point of really ludicrous.

  • Martin November 6, 2010 at 3:56 am

    I’m coming round to it. Yes, it is cheesy and shit but presumably so are the contents so it is a good fit.

  • Arachn November 6, 2010 at 4:12 am

    It’s always nice to hear that readers who actually don’t like in-your-face, photoshopped-model-standing-against-flashy-background covers “can’t be catered to”. Down with elitism, I say.

  • The Evil Hat/Nat November 6, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Isn’t it far more elitist to expect that a small section of the readership, as we are, be exclusively catered to over the comparatively massive hordes of potential buyers that don’t read blogs?

  • Sam Sykes November 6, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I don’t mean to sound elitist, but Nat’s pretty much got it.

    How is it not elitist to judge a book by its cover, anyway?

  • The Evil Hat/Nat November 6, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    How would it be elitist to do so? Perhaps nit picky and obsessive, but hardly elitist.

  • Sam Sykes November 6, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Fair enough.

  • Anna November 7, 2010 at 4:17 am

    That was one ugly cover. But I think the font’s okay, except for the relief.

  • Locusmortiis November 7, 2010 at 7:10 am

    Thats a spectacularly bad cover, its like someone had a spastic attack while they were using photoshop.

    As usual the author comes on to defend the artwork on his book (its hardly going to endear him to the publishers if he denounces the artwork too) but his extra-shitty attitude is pretty off-putting and does nothing to interest me in his book.

    There are plenty of books being published with good cover art, this book isn’t one of those however, in my opinion of course.

  • Tom November 7, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Holy genital warts Batman! Me no like, but I don’t think Sam’s being shitty in his defence of it, he just disagrees with the verdict. And anyway, he’s far less circumspect when he gets shitty… or tired, or hungry, or needing a beer, or is in the presence of women…

  • The Evil Hat/Nat November 7, 2010 at 8:45 am

    Where was Sykes rude in his objections? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume he likes the cover; it’s possible to enjoy without having a monetary incentive. I should know, as I find it quite entertaining.

  • James (Speculative Horizons) November 7, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Yeah, it’s pretty cheesy. It made me think of Errol Flynn movies, which surely wasn’t the intention…

    But let’s cut to the chase; the point of the cover is to draw the eye of a prospective buyer. That is its only purpose; to make people pick it up.

    And I think it’s striking enough to do that. I’m not overly keen on it from an artistic perspective, but I think it’ll stand out on the table/shelf.

  • Reuben November 21, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Rather than draw my eye, that cover would turn it away. When I see a photo realistic cover with a pouty, long haired man in torn clothes, holding a sword and wreathed in flame I think, “oh, fantasy romance, not my cup of tea.” Now, I know that would be drawing the wrong conclusion, but that’s because I read blogs. Not everyone does, so I suspect this cover will probably chase some readers.

  • […] jo també penso que aquestes dues portades són horribles (per bé que ambdós llibres d’en Sam Sykes […]