I’m excited to introduce you to my favorite fantasy book covers. I am a sucker for a great fantasy story and this type of art in general. Designers who craft the art for this genre can go wild with their imagination and visually build unusual creations from extraordinary character appearance to unique worlds.
Readers can choose among fantasy subcategories such as epic fantasy, young adult fantasy, historical fantasy, and many more. In that way, everyone can find the book for their taste. In the previous articles, I’ve already talked about romance and sci-fi book cover design. If you want to find out more about it, be sure to read these two articles:
If you’re wondering what the difference between sci-fi and fantasy is, keep on reading.
What Is The Difference Between Fantasy And Sci-Fi?
Some might think that fantasy and sci-fi genres are alike. But that’s not the case. Sci-fi themes usually happen in the future and are connected with technological advancement. Whereas fantasy worlds include supernatural powers, magic, and the occult. On top of that, a lot of stories have mystical creatures in them.
Let’s explore what the typical characteristics of the fantasy book covers are.
Fantasy Book Cover Design Characteristics
Almost all books from the fantasy group will have a cover created with a dark color scheme. Predominant colors filling this pallet are dark blue, dark green, dark red, black, silver, and gold. The last two are both on the brighter side of hue.
These colors symbolize kingdoms, supernatural, and project a mysterious vibe.
The commonly used cover font for this novel class is serif fonts written with all case letters. A great example would be the Trajan typeface that was inspired by the Roman square capitals.
To imitate Romans stone carvings, a lot of designers enhance the typography with 3D effects. Besides mimicking stone, it can also emulate various metals.
Use of Characters
Like in other genres, the fantasy genre is not an exception to placing the main hero on the cover. Many fantasy novels are war-based. That’s why the main character might wear a cape, have a sword or giant ax in their hand.
On the other hand, the designer might also fit already mentioned mystical creators or animals on the cover like vampires, dragons, phoenixes, lions, wolves, or owls. They all hold a symbolic value and give the vibe of witchcraft, mystery, supernatural, and the occult.
Now that we laid the foundation let’s explore the seven best fantasy book designs and discover their aesthetic interpretation.
Here Is The List Of The Best Fantasy Covers:
- Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
- Caraval by Stephanie Garber
- Everless by Sara Holland
- The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine
- Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova
Shall we begin with the first one?
1. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
About The Book
Ninth House was written by Leigh Bardugo, a New York Times best-selling author. I don’t want to spoil the novel too much. Let me say that Alex Stern was accepted in Yales secret society called Nine Houses on her ability to see ghosts.
Now let’s figure out how the story reflects the cover art.
This one is the most minimalistic designed fantasy cover on the list.
The designer decided to put a black serpentined snake on a black background. With the effect of black on the black color, the artist created a kind of creepy, mystical aura.
The snake is a representation of the main character’s cunning trait. On top of that, the animals’ curves create number 9, connected with the title’s number. The black snake scales are booster with reflections, which makes its shape more visible. On top of that, the effect makes it real looking.
Cover as a whole has a sinister appearance. The reptile going from top to bottom makes a feeling that it will get under your skin as soon as you grab the book.
As already disgust, the most popular typography used for fantasy cover designs is a serif one. The designer of this cover went with this font style as well. Serif lettering is commonly used for gravestone inscriptions. Because the Yales secret society meetings are held in the tombs, this choice is a perfect fit.
Letters are in light grey color. This dimed-out effect adds to the visual mystical feeling. Contrary if the title was in pure white color, it would pop out more, but at the same time, the secret-like sense would be lost.
I like the details of the letters. Some are placed above the snake, and others under it. Their position symbolizes the power of the snake. The reptile is the master of everything and decides under or above which part it will crawl.
The next in line is a design from another Leigh Bardugo book – Six of Crows.
2. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This one is not as evil-looking as the previous one, but before we dive deep into the aesthetic interpretation, let’s first find out what this book talks about.
About The Book
Kaz accepts an offer for a mission to get the Yul-Bayer out of prison. If the mission succeeds, he will get the money he can use for a rival gang’s vengeance. To effectively carry out a plan, he needs his team of additional five people, and together with Kaz makes it six.
Now that you know the title’s roots and a bit of summary let’s explore the aesthetic interpretation.
Like in the previous example, the cover represents an animal, in this case, a crow that stretches from top to bottom.
Both animals from Ninth House and Six of Crows share the same color. On top of that, they both have pronounced surface highlights. The realistic-looking crow balances out the sky created with the watercolor technique.
If you’ve read any of my logo analyzing articles, you probably already know that I love negative space designs.
The prime example of the mentioned style is the crow’s wing, where the buildings are placed between its feathers. Different buildings represent every team member, and the bird itself represents the whole crew. Besides that, the structures could also illustrate prison watchtowers.
Moreover, the crow is a symbol of death and represents the team’s destruction that they leave behind in their desire to achieve the goal.
All caps serif font with the spirals on the letter ends represent magic. Additionally, the circles illustrate different twists found in the plot.
Six of Crows’ title is not enriched with the 3D look. Besides that, it doesn’t have a shadow underneath. Still, the letter curls create depths of space that kinda make a hypnotizing effect.
I like Leigh Bardugo’s books and their cover design. Unfortunately, I cannot include her other works in this list because I would ruin the magical number of seven in that way.
Nonetheless, these are other Leigh’s books with sunning cover designs: King of Scars, Shadow and Bone, and The Language of Thorns.
3. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge
About The Book
The book talks about Ruining’s event, where mysterious fog kills most people, and those who weren’t buried became zombies.
The only city that remained untouched by the fog was the City of Viyara, guarded by the Thorn’s Sisters’ magical wall. But this is not an ordinary wall; but it demands human sacrifice. I could go into the depths with the story summary, but this is more than enough to see how it reflects the cover art.
Almost every author has his/her own design theme and style that their books are based on, which is excellent for branding. In that way, the reader can immediately get the sense of who the novel’s author could be, based on the cover art.
In Rosamund Hodge’s case, many of her books are made with many circular elements, and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is not an exception.
Elements like the nuns standing in a circle, round evil-looking well, and orb background are all based on the mentioned form.
If you take a look at the edges of the well, you will see that the rounded shape is broken with straight lines that create a cross. Which is one of the most familiar symbols for religion.
The central circular element stretches across three-quarters of the cover, and the visual size represents its power. Besides that, it’s rather greedy looking because it demands more and more human sacrifice. The whole effect is enriched with the nuns bending to it, which gives it even more dominance.
The white color cloths of the Sisters of Thorn symbolize purity. On the other end is the girl in a red dress that could illustrate the blood sacrifice they need to perform so that the people of Viyara will remind protected by the wall. Additionally, the woman’s red color dress could also represent the love between the protagonists.
Predominant grey and blue tones boost the feeling of coldness that is linked with the mysterious fog.
The Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, was written with the blackletter typography, commonly used with religious works.
The same color pallet from the cover continues on the letters as well. I like the detail of red dots painted on the white letters, which are in the minority like the woman in a red dress is.
The artist who used this typography also added the light to the dark grey gradient to illustrate the freezing feeling. Combined with the drop shadow effect, the letters create a third-dimensional space.
4. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
About The Book
The novel talks about two sisters – Scarlett and Donatella. Both enter the invite-only Caraval filled with magic. Whoever wins the game of Caraval will be rewarded with a wish.
The cover of Caraval speaks for itself. Its visual elements give the feeling that the story must be connected with magic somehow. In this case, no characters or creatures are placed on the cover, but the whole dark color scheme portrays the feeling of mystery.
If we start at the background, you can observe the stars that could symbolize different game participants.
There is another meaning of smaller stars that we’ll touch in a second, but before that, let’s discover the purpose of the larger star-like shape.
The mentioned shape is a representation of the Legend, a master of the Caraval. Like in the Ninth House example, the title is wrapped around the central star and illustrates the control of the person who rules everything, in this case, the Legend.
The star could also be connected with the phrase “to wish upon a star,” where a star can answer someone’s wishes. If you look closer, you will see that the dominant star is filled with smaller stars. This could demonstrate all the wishes Legend received or the infinite option he can realize.
Furthermore, the middle shape could also illustrate a compass that shows a direction. The path someone will end on depends on the choices a person will make.
The blue background is complemented by the red swirls that also make the whole cover action looking. On top of that, the twirl’s glowing effect radiates a devilish aura.
Among the already discussed elements, my favorite one must be the typography of the title. Its pure white color gives the cover the most visual prominence.
I’ve also touched on how the title is placed in some parts below the central star. This placement creates the illusion of the third dimension. The letter vails are stylistically connected with the red circular elements and illustrate different plot twists.
The designer who created this cover thought about the smallest details, like making the text “Remember it’s only a game…” in the curved form, which follows the entire cover’s rounded structure.
5. Everless by Sara Holland
About The Novel
The story takes place in the Kingdom of Sempera and follows the main protagonist Jules. In this kingdom, time works as money, created from the extracted iron in the blood. The currency is then consumed, and in that way, someone’s lifespan is extended.
Like all the books on this list, Everless was created with the dark color pallet, with the dominant dark grey, orange, and silver tones.
The central element is the hourglass in front of the damask patterned background. The pattern symbolizes royalty, and the sand clock, as we all know, is a representation of the time – the main currency in the book.
Out from the sand in the upper part raises the city of Everless, the wealthiest family’s residence. The top position symbolizes wealth and power, but as you know, in the sand clock top can become a bottom in a matter of time.
Contrary, we can see the main character starting at the bottom and quickly running towards the top. But the protagonist’s way is not linear, but it takes a few turns.
The top part of the hourglass is quite refined, built with the complex rounded shapes that compliment the hourglass’s roundness. On the other hand, the bottom part has a spike-like design that gives a sense of roughness.
The typography used for the title matches the whole outlook of the book, which portraits the feeling of wealth. Also, the font with the applied effects resembles melted silver from which the coins are made of.
Now that we are already talking about kingdoms let’s take another fantasy book cover that falls in the same territory as Everless.
6. The Traitor Prince by C.J. Redwine
About The Book
In the story, you can follow the prince of Akram named Javan Najafai, who was thrown to the Maqbara Prison, after the Rahim – an impostor took his place.
Side by side, he and his alliance Sadja who spent most of her life in this cure prison, prepare for the gladiator fight. If Javan wins, he will get an opportunity to show that he is a real prince.
C.J. Redwine’s fantasy cover designs in the Ravenspire series follow a similar design language as Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Which means they are built on a circular geometry.
The color combination of a red tear stone design and purple background is associated with royalty. Although the crown’s red color bits are represented in the minority, it creates a remarkable contrast correlated to purple.
The color red has many associations with passion, love, loss, and evil. All these topics can be found in the book.
I want to draw attention to the small design detail of the crown buried in the sand. This placement suggests that the fake prince intends to tuck away the real one.
Let’s also focus on the position of the crown. As you can see, it is tilted sideways, which displays the false prince’s arrogant character.
An element that also stands out is the round circle of mercury known as quicksilver in ancient times. The shape was designed in a way that forms a head under the crown.
In the past, mercury was used for coating mirrors, and a mirror image could symbolize the real prince’s reflection a fake one has. Like the color red, mercury is also tied with different meanings such as death, mystery, and transformation. The transformation asset could point to the exchange of power in the kingdom.
If you draw a diagonal line from the crown, it will end at the double ring feature. The smaller one, which is feminine looking, symbolizes Sadja, and the bigger one represents Javan. Linked together, they are fighting against a false prince that is set on the other side of the imaginary line you just draw.
Let’s examine the typography of this cover design.
Like we’ve seen in the previous example, the designer used all caps letters for the title. Still, there is a distinction between the font category used in this case. Unlike the other cover designs where a serif font was used for the titles, the artist decided to go for a sans-serif typography.
Although the serif type would look more royal, I can say that the metallic 3D effect wouldn’t be as expressive on serif parts as it is in this case.
Also, the tile is conveniently placed under the crown. Its placement further amplifies the symbolic meaning of the elements connected with the fake prince.
Let’s analyze the final fantasy book cover design on the list.
7. Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova
About The Book
Bruja Born is the second in the series. Why is this important, you might ask? Because this book cover was designed so nicely that it led to the redesign of the first one – Labyrinth Lost.
The story takes place in New York and follows three sisters – brujas, which stands for a witch in English.
The eldest sister Lula, wants to bring her (ex)boyfriend back from the dead after the bus accident. However, he’s not the only person she resurrected.
After the quick summary, let’s jump into the aesthetic interpretation.
I adore the blue and gold color combination. If you look at the first book in the series – Labyrinth Lost, you will see that Bruja has inverted colors. Here the blue color is the primary one, and gold is in the minority.
The cover looks like a witchcraft book filled with different spells, so kudos to the designer for this excellent executed design.
If we start from the edges, you can see different art deco-lined elements. These are linked to the New York story setting, where this style boomed in the 1920 and 30s.
Moving to the center of the book, where you can spot the most noticeable element on the cover – moth. The mythology of the moth is connected with death. If someone is unfamiliar with this animal folklore, the clear skull sign on its back gives a hint of the insect’s meaning.
Behind the creature lays the moon calendar with three moons representing the three sisters. The author connected many things with the number three. There are three books in the series, three sisters, and three main design elements – a central one combined with two title words.
Coming back to the moon calendar model, you can see a crescent that is kind of in the way and disturbs the three moons’ harmony and symmetry. Half-moon is placed next to a different moon compared to the first book. This illustrates the sister that goes through the change/evolution.
The smaller dashed circle is complimented with the outer rounded element, designed with small dots. If the inner circle represents a day, the outer one represents the minutes.
Both elements together work like a calendar or clock, which gives the cover a fluid-like attribute. Moreover, the circular parts are perceived as more feminine. Because the females are the story’s main characters, they are placed in the center. Contrary, the more rigid lines are perceived as masculine and set to the book’s edges.
Just as crucial as the talked elements is the blue background infused with a grunge finish. It gives the cover feeling of wear and tear. Besides that, it symbolizes that not everything in the novel runs smoothly.
The novel’s typography design follows the same pattern as the other examples in this article except for Six of Crows. In this case, the 3D effect is not as pronounced as in other instances.
Some letters have swirls added to them and strengthen the feminine sense. Additionally, the curly shapes represent a spiral of events that happen in the novel.
Final Words: Fantasy Book Covers
The fantasy genre is blessed with many great cover designs, and I had a difficult decision which one particular will make this list. As early mentioned, I didn’t want to exceed the seven different examples because I didn’t want to destroy the number’s magical meaning.
I appreciate the design direction in the case of Bruja Born. The cover was so beautiful that it caused the redesign of the previous one.
Remember, no matter which way a designer goes with his style, they should always remember the design genre’s characteristics and features.