Here Comes a Chopper

November 16th, 2010

The concept for the cover of The Heroes was a development of the one for Best Served Cold (no way!).  So weapon, meet bloody map, bloody map, meet weapon.  But having done a sword for Best Served Cold,we needed to move into fresh pastures, and since The Heroes is set in the North, where men are men, chests are hairy, wood is plentiful and steel expensive and battle is a way of life, what could have been more appropriate to adorn its cover than an axe, proud tool of war and tree cutting throughout the ages.  But what manner of axe, was the question, for the variations are legion.

Well I’ll tell you what manner of axe.  I wanted it to have an exaggerated “bearded” profile reminiscent of saxon and viking war axes, well-suited to fighting in shield walls, which is something close to the traditional style of battle in the North.  Above all I wanted it to look like a real weapon.  I didn’t want it to be ye olde decorative fantasee warre axe.  I wanted it to look like something that really could smash your head in and ask for seconds.  Having been given roughly that brief, and a few photos for guidance, Didier Graffet came back with this sketch:

Which was pretty much there already, really.  It was perhaps a little more elaborate than I’d originally had in mind, which had been for something really simple, brutal and workmanlike, as much wood-axe as war-axe.  But after thinking about it a bit I realised that if it was going to be writ large across front, spine and back of a book it needed a certain level of visual interest on blade and haft, not just a big expanse of blank wood and steel.  And the overall effect was undeniably still of something businesslike .  So we asked Didier to go ahead and colour that one, with just a longer chain on the haft for wrist looping and:

Wow.  Click on it, go on.  The closer you look, the more detail you get.  This one was apparently done digitally, as opposed to the sword for Best Served Cold which was an honest-to-goodness actual painting on board (which I actually have under my desk waiting to be framed), but you can still see the “brushwork” when you get close enough.  As with the sword for Best Served Cold, it has a kind of hyper-real quality – almost photo-realistic, and yet with an extra level of style.  Could one ask to be maimed by a better axe?  I don’t think so…

Posted in artwork by Joe Abercrombie on November 16th, 2010.

15 comments so far

  • Dungeonmum says:

    It’s interesting to see how much say the author gets in all matters such as these, I’m glad you got in that the thing had to look ‘real’ – that’s what’s striking about your books (well the one I’ve read anyway) that despite being fantasy everything seems so realistic.

    I was admiring the sideswept hilt on best served cold’s cover, before I’d even got into it, thinking how beautiful real-world weapons are/were that there really is no need to invent new ones. I hate the fact that in a lot of fantasy art nowadays there is a fashion for tiny little women (or inverted-triangle-shaped men) wielding blades thicker than their hips, like lead miniatures scaled up to human size. Plain wrong. Can we have a polearm on the next book please? Superior to swords and axes, yet not as romantic sadly.

  • Eddwigg says:

    Nice chopper!

  • Wayne says:


  • Wayne says:

    i meant awesome

  • That is a deadly, scary looking weapon. Exactly suits your Northmen.

  • Brandon Schutz says:

    I love how detailed it is. I also enjoy seeing an axe that doesn’t look like a cliche dwarfish battle axe. Skol on the great artwork!!!

  • Phil N says:

    Up close the blade even has little scratches on it where it’s cut through armour, mail, bone or just been sharpened.


  • Phil says:

    Very nice axe! Well done for having it look realistic rather then fantasyesq.

    How about a scimitar or some such desert types weapon for the next book? That is if it focuses on certain desert dwelling people eating persons…does it?

  • Scott says:

    Really. Really. REALLY Badass!

  • Mike says:

    Or how about a bow and quiver of arrows, presuming of course that Ferro might be putting in an appearance any time soon? Hmmm? Hmmm? Come on, you know you want to bring her back, Joe… No pressure…

  • Skout says:

    I’m confused. I posted a reply earlier and it didn’t show up. When I tried to post it again, I got a message saying “It looks like you’ve already posted that.” ….but it wasn’t showing.

    Am I being censored? 🙁

  • Skout says:

    It seems I’m only censored when I use a link to my website. *wonders*

  • Bloody Nine says:

    That’s a good looking axe to be maimed by!

  • Ace of Knaves says:

    I remember once reading something about the blade itself inciting acts of violence, or some such nonsense, and when I look at this axe I completely understand what that was getting at. I see it and all I can think is “Goddamn, I want to cave in someone’s skull with that bastard.”

    I’m a fan of the US cover of Best Served Cold, but now I find myself really longing for a UK copy of The Heroes. Ah well.

  • Jon says:

    I have pre-ordered your book!

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