The Emperor’s New Covers

September 1st, 2009

So there is to be a new UK Mass-Market Paperback Edition of THE gritty epic fantasy debut of 2006 (obviously excluding Scott Lynch’s, Brian Ruckley’s, or Tom Lloyd’s, and no, Pat Rothfuss was 2007, you cheeky so-and-sos), The Blade Itself , appearing in time for Christmas, and it looks a-little something like this:

Oooooooooh. Somewhat of a departure, I think you’ll agree.

The existing UK Mass-Market paperbacks are B-Format (slightly larger size), these will be A-Format (classic small bookstand size), and hence probably somewhat fatter (so pretty damn fat – 624 pages). The long established parchmenty treatments have, of course, served the books well on both sides of the pond:

As have the slightly updated versions with ego-swelling big name and small title:

Which will continue to be printed, in fact, and so will co-exist with the new treatments for the time being. Indeed the original covers (by design sorceress Laura Brett) have probably been the most consistently admired thing about the series. But there was a feeling that theyweren’t necessarily grabbing the core epic fantasy reader as hard as they might be, or at least that an alternate, more classic cover might broaden the market, and possibly encourage better buying-in and shelving from some booksellers.

Art is by Chris McGrath who does a lot of Urban Fantasy covers but less epic-style stuff, and I reckon he’s done a bang up job. Gritty, impactful, and says epic fantasy without the slightest whiff of cheesiness (which is not an easy trick to pull off). Not at all a bad representation of Master Ninefingers either. Never an easy thing for an author to see his/her characters made manifest like that. Glokta (Before They are Hanged) and Jezal (Last Argument of Kings) will be following over the next few months, at which point there’ll probably be some tweaking to give it more of a unified series feel…

Posted in artwork, news by Joe Abercrombie on September 1st, 2009.

37 comments so far

  • Luba says:

    Hi Joe,
    just stopping by to say my thanks for such a highly enjoyable series. I picked it up upon numerous recommendations on Amazon and can't put it down for two weeks now. I am your loyal fan from now on. Many thanks!

  • Anonymous says:

    Was Fabio busy ?…prefer the orig.

  • Urtha says:


    I hate to be negative, but the new cover looks a bit like a novelisation tie-in to a film I have yet to see advertised (possibly circa the 80`s) Worse-case scenario could be a "photo-novel" (also circa the 80`s)

    Which character is being depicted?

    Needless to say, your wordmanship is not in question at all.

  • I think I prefer the original, fancy covers, but at least a re-release will allow me the chance to review the series properly.

    It's a good cover, though – an Anglophile version of a US fantasy cover, perhaps? Their always look very… cheesy, but this looks as cool as they probably wish their covers looked over there.

  • Urtha says:


    After reading further, the character is The Bloody Nine…..

    He does look like he is missing his cooking pot though.

  • rooben says:

    O great, now we will never hear the end of it, now that Joe's graduated to the ranks of "Authors Whose Name is Bigger than the Title" level of popularity….definitely will have to turn his head sideways when he heads for the exit.

    OK, for all the S*** I give you, Joe – i still ran out and bought Best Served Cold on release date …Contgrats, Joe – you deserve it.

  • Lol, that is so not like Logen looks in my head. There he looks more like Gimli only a little taller and gruffier.

    I should probably read the character descriptions, but I always seem to glance over them in every book and just recreate their appearance based on their actions and character traits.

  • Suzann says:

    At first I thought it might be Joe. Now it looks a bit like Viggo Mortensen. Casting for the movie already, Joe?
    Great cover. I like the big name too.

  • Anonymous says:

    wow, lol @anon above with the fabio comment. cover looks good though Joe, but I prefer the original like the other commentors.

    my buddy is living abroad in Gosport/Portsmouth. do me a favor and do a tour there so he can get me a signed book!

  • Sedulo says:

    Groovy art. I think it looks like Gabriel Byrne with a bit of Steven Tyler from Aerosmith thrown in for the wear, tear and hair. It was a smart idea to avoid showing any teeth. Looks pretty good for The Bloody Nine, I can only imagine how Jezal will pout his way across the cover.

    Thank you for the cover previews.

    Also, I am very appreciative of the previous post with the update and description of your new work. That was very cool of you.

    I really enjoyed Best Served Cold.
    I was so hyper about the release that I bought two copies in advance from two vendors, the Amazon copy arrived first.

    I like that there is no map but I did keep looking at the map fragments on the cover of BSC. Habit.

  • Luba,

    Yes, Fabio was busy.

    The name's been bigger than the title for a while, as you see on the newer parchmenty covers.

    Like Gimli only a little taller?
    For real?

    Stefan, 2nd Anon,
    Preferring the original is no problem, you'll still be able to buy the original. This is additional, to spread the market a little.

    Yeah, I thought he looks a bit like a beat up, pissed off aragorn, which probably isn't a bad button to push, commercially. And lest we forget, that is the point of a cover, to shift units…

    Gabriel Byrne meets Stephen Tyler? Yeah, I can kinda see that.

    With something like this you give a relatively detailed treatment but unless you say "I want them to look exactly like —-" which would be a pretty odd thing to do, the actual face will always be the artist's impression. So for me, Logen would probably have less looks and more sense of humour, but the artist is incapable of reaching into my head and pulling out the image therein, especially since I don't even really have a fully defined face in mind. There comes a point you have to let the artist do their thing, and I like what he's done.

  • Erik says:

    I like it as well. Though I prefer the original, I think this is a good cover 🙂

    There was never a B-size, small-named version of LaoK, right?

    And any word on the Subterranean Press stuff?

  • It looks good, but I have to be honest and say that I like more the first one. It is simpler, but I find it more powerful and it appeals to me more 🙂

  • Brushy says:

    Hmmmmmm that is a sexy guy. I thought the author is yummie, but that cover makes my mouth water. Where can I order him (not the author the guy on the cover)?

    Lovely art work. If I hadn't read all your boks before I would buy it on sight with that cover.

  • Anonymous says:

    Well I'm glad I bought the book with the original cover…that's all I'm saying!

  • Anonymous says:

    Ah, just what your books bring to mind…a model/stripper glowering through his eyebrows. Couldn't have cast it better myself!

    I'll stick with my parchment, fuddy-duddy that I am.


  • Anonymous says:

    …sounded unintentionally harsh…. 'Course I hope you sell boatloads of the things!

    Garret again.

  • Bob Lock says:

    Not the Bloody-Nine I had in mind, that looks a tad like Jim Morrison of The Doors whereas I imagined Logen to be more Shrek-like (less the green skin and trumpet-like ears) sort of fairly large but not particularly handsome and yet does have a certain magnetism.
    This guy is much too pretty, you just feel the need to slap him around the head with a bannister a few times… well, don't you?

  • Anonymous says:

    If he's Logan, where's his knives?

    You can never have to many knives, apparently.


  • Erik,
    No MMP of LAOK with the first artwork, only the updated parchmenty look.

    And on the Sub Press, we've settled the internals and are considering artists.

    Preferring the first one is fine, this is an alternative rather than a replacement.

    Sex sells…

    I guess they're hidden…

    I refer you to my earlier answer re: his smouldering good lookingness.

    As for you Garret,
    I guess we could have gone for a more traditional barbarian look:

    But I'm not sure how that would have played with the fanbase…

  • disrepdog says:

    He does look too handsome to be Nine Fingers but as fantasy covers go I like it. Not saying it's better than the original though…

    Btw Joe any chance you are going to fantasycon this year?

  • Anonymous says:

    touche, touche… Should know better than to spar with you.


  • I'm liking the alternative cover.

    I'm also getting a bit of a Heathcliff vibe from it…which either means he's captured the more primal aspects of logen's character perfectly…or that i've been exposed to far too much kate bush than is really healthy.

    Can't wait to see the others!

  • Brushy says:

    Just look at the posture of his body, and the expression in his eyes. His jaw is set determined. His whole attitude is dangerous. If you enlarge the image you can see the scars on his face, the details of the clothes he is wearing. The tone of his skin, his nose is not elegant, a hard nose that has experienced a few punches. The way he grips the sword, don’t play with me baby. Every man would pee his pants having such a guy walking towards him and every lady will think “Oh yes please, play with me”. The artist has done an excellent job. He must have observed Logan closely and the result is great. This cover will sell a lot of books. And the buyers will even receive more than the cover promises.

  • Northman says:

    Erm… are you alright there Brushy?

    Anyway, yes I like it, looks just like Logen should – it's not like you're going to put some ugly git on the cover are you (save that for the author photo :))

    Makes me laugh when people keep harping on about how representations of fictional characters don't 'look like they do in my head'. Duh! Though I guess the complaints here are not quite as bad as some of the vitriol that's been going round regarding the casting for the Song of Ice and Fire TV series.
    Mark Addy as Robert Baratheon – do me a favour… oh no, I'm doing it now!

  • disrepdog says:

    "it's not like you're going to put some ugly git on the cover are you"

    Um, isn't the next one going to have Glokta on it? He can't possibly be good looking can he?

    The whole "not looking like I imagined" is partly why book-to-films don't often work for me (that and the huge cutting of critical scenes that goes on ;-))

  • Anonymous says:

    For Inquisitor Glotka i'm guessing Tom Cruise with a bad back.

  • steves says:

    I like the cover. It looks like GaryMoore circa 1987.

  • Elfy says:

    I keep flashing on Viggo Mortensen when I look at the cover. I actually like Viggo as an actor and he has cred for this ever since Aragorn, but I prefer the original cover design. As someone else said it looks like the movie tie-in cover. Oh no….wait a minute! They’re making The First Law as an HBO mini series, aren’t they? They’ve cast Viggo Mortensen as Logen, and this isn’t a real cover at all, but your way of giving us a hint as to who is playing who in the mini series ala, George Martin with the A Game of Thrones pilot. You sneaky sneaky man. I see right through you, Abercrombie. Oh happy day! Now I can watch AND read my favourite fantasy series!

  • carolannkg says:


    Think I still like the original cover first, but there is something about this guy, and I agree with others that it's a definite ringer for Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn.

    About 100 pages in on Best Served Cold up to now – so far so good – great writing as ususal.

    Thanks for some really good fantasy – it's getting harder and harder to find good fantasy, too many rip offs, too many 'yet another trilogy/quadrology/dekalogy' – was beginning to despair until I bought The Blade Itself – so thanks for that as well.

  • Jack says:

    I prefer the original parchment style covers, incidentally thats how I discovered you, stuck in 'Stones in Newport desperately looking for something to get my mind off how much of a shithole Newport is.
    Thinking about it, I'm not sure I would have bought The Blade Itself if it had him on the front.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wasn't Logan also described as the most scarred man a union soldier has ever scene?

    I like to think of him as battle scarred and world weiry. Yon chap in the photo looks like he's been over charged for his hair extensions and throwing a hissy fit.


  • Anonymous says:

    aahhmm of course I meant SEEN.

    You try to type with a 7 year old and golden retreiver going bonkers under your chair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Not to be a meanie but the reason why the original covers were so neat was because those allows you to read them in public without any embarrassment. Now with that big guy in the cover . . . it's going to be different.

  • Grif says:

    ^^^ yes i like covers that allow you to read in public with no shame 🙂 plain covers are the go for me, but i know its hard to sell books with plain covers, so i suggest all you cover haters invest in a nice leather book case which will not only protect your books but also leave you looking smart and distinguished to observant onlookers.

    greetings from Australia! LOVE the first law

  • Chris says:

    Perhaps I'm just falling into the "They Changed It Now It Sucks" trope, but I prefer the original cover. That isn't quite how I pictured Logan. The secondary cover with your name in LARGE LETTERS is fine, but looks a bit off without the slanted text.

    Of course, as the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover…

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