Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Don't Judge a Book . . .

I visited a wonderful used bookstore this weekend. It is located in a little mining town up in the mountains where my family likes to go on vacation. It is appropriately called "The Bookmine." Books are stacked to the ceiling and packed so close together that you have to turn sideways to squeeze between the shelves in some places.

I came away with The Sorceress and the Cygnet by Patricia McKillip, Deerskin by Robin McKinley, Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, and Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind. All for under $15.


Now that I've gloated, I must share the cover of The Sorceress and the Cygnet with you because it is fabulous.

book cover sorceress cygnet
First of all, let's observe the pink swan.
McKillip cygnet sorceress book
So far,the majority of the swans in the story
are black. This one is definitely pink.
And it's not my camera's fault.

sorceress mckillip book cover
Next, let's observe the girl who I assume is the sorceress.
Please notice her strange alien feelers.
Also notice the strange alien landscape.
Neither of which occur in the book.

horns mckillip cygnet sorceress
And the horns.
Nyx does NOT wear horns in the novel.
 I was going to write this off as one of those bad decisions that seemed to be common in the '70s, and because of the '70s I was going to forgive them.

Then I saw it was first published in 1991.

So it was just a bad decision.

By an artist? and a publisher who somehow appear not to have actually read the book.

But Patricia McKillip's work is some of the most amazing I have ever encountered and The Sorceress and the Cygnet is stunningly beautiful.

"He stood in a vast hall of pure gold, no other color; the light cast no shadows. Upon a gold dais sat a gold throne; upon a gold throne sat the Gold King. Lip, eyelash, fingernail, he could have been melted and stamped for coins. His face was a mingling of tinker's face and the sun-face in the Hold Sign of Hunter Hold: wide-boned, wide-eyed, crowned with wild locks of gold hair. He wore a massive sword and armor spiked with points of gold at neck and wrist, knee and elbow. He was chained by one ankle to his throne" (McKillip, 42).

It is an excellent reminder that we should try not to judge books by their covers. Usually the cover isn't the poor author's fault.

Sometimes, it's true, the book matches it's hideous cover.

book cover warprize
Exhibit A

But sometimes it is simply concealed treasure. So remember give the ugly books a chance too. You might find something wonderful.


  1. LOL - this is a great post! ;)

    Love these lines:

    "I was going to write this off as one of those bad decisions that seemed to be common in the 70s, and because of the 70s I was going to forgive them.

    Then I saw it was first published in 1991.

    So it was just a bad decision."

    Hahaha! Yeah...

    I have to say, the one nice thing about going the self-publishing route is that you can have a say in your cover. :) I absolutely love Lena Goldfinch's work - she's an awesome cover designer!

    Anyway, I looked up Deerskin and it sounds super intriguing... Have you read it before?


    1. I have read DEERSKIN before. It wasn't my favorite McKinley book, but I did read it when I was much younger, and it is one of her few, clearly marked Adult books. It was still good. Anyway, it was the only one of her books beside DRAGON HAVEN that I don't own. I have no intention of buying DRAGON HAVEN, so my collection is now complete :)

    2. I also make a point of buying most of the fairytale retellings that cross my path and DEERSKIN is a retelling of an old story called DONKEYSKIN.

  2. Reminds me of an Andre Norton cover where the Witch. is. GREEN.
    Ain't no green witches in that story.

    In fact, I recall reading somewhere that Andre was less than amused by it.

    Thank goodness for artist who at least ask for details, if not read the story, -before- creating the cover.

  3. Deerskin! That was the first Robin McKinley I read, and the only one I really enjoyed. I haven't read much of her other books, but I remember Deerskin, and not just because of its adult content.

  4. I think if I saw this in a bookstore, I would pick it up, make a few jokes about it, and put it back down. I admire your ability to see past its faults.

  5. Oh my gosh. This is hilarious! That first cover is so, so awful. :P Makes me wonder just how many books get passed over simply because they have such a terrible cover.

    1. Yeah, covers are really important... I probably shouldn't say this, especially considering my above comment, since I haven't actually *read* this series--but I think the sales of Matched by Ally Condie had to have been considerably helped by the awesome cover.

  6. I would love to know what's going through some cover-designers' heads. ...which can be a compliment or so, so not, depending on the cover we're talking about.