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Cover Design Spotlight: Lesley Worrell

By Tessa Thejas Thomas, Abbie Wright & Juliette Tulloch

For this issue our team are shining a spotlight on cover designer Lesley Worrell. Lesley focuses her design work on women’s fiction, young adult and romance novels. She has worked with a number of publishing houses including Penguin Random House and HarperCollins. In this article we will look at some of our favourite covers created by the designer. You can find out more about Lesley Worrel’s work here and on her website.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow is a fantasy Young Adult novel with sirens, friendship and race at its core. The story follows the friendship between Tavia and Effie as they confront societal challenges within their personal lives as well as in the siren world after a siren murder trial.

The cover, designed by Lesley Worrell, illustrates Tavia and Effie underwater with their hair flowing upwards. Their makeup and accessories match an underwater theme, with a harmonious blue colour scheme to match the background. Interestingly, the two girls are depicted facing away from each other but are inevitably connected as the story emphasizes.

Other elements of the sea, such as bubbles and seaweed, are intertwined throughout the title. This accompanies the upward movement of the cover design. The font of the title is natural and compliments the blue colour scheme rather than drawing attention away from Tavia and Effie. Overall, the natural loose flow of all the illustrated components of the cover represents the setting of the sea and being a Black siren in this world that Morrow has created.

Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

Becker’s first novel in her Forestborn series follows Rora, a magical shifter, as she encounters a number of fantastical trials in order to face her past. The cover design created by Lesley Worrell perfectly captures the setting and central theme of the story. The cover does an incredible job at including many story features while not looking cluttered, and the best example of this is the tree formation creating an outline of Rora’s face. Furthermore, the central image of the golden bird within the facial outline tells us about Rora’s shifting abilities from the offset.

The colours contrast beautifully with the deep blue and green mixing well with the gold, while also ensuring that the gold elements are what really stand out. Additionally, the gold roots on the trees could highlight the twists and turns Rora faces in the novel, while the stars covering her face emphasizes how special of a character she truly is in the story. Overall, Worrell’s design is bold, beautiful and clever. It’s a standout for the bookshelf and perfectly captures the spirit of the novel.

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow

Drawing on from Morrow’s first novel A Song Below Water, A Chorus Rises follows the same world of Portland and the aftermath of the novel's ending. The sequel heavily focuses on Naema’s journey to understand who she is and to tell her story.

Like the first book, the cover design pays great attention to drawing out the uniqueness of the characters, down to their clothing and mannerisms. The addition of Naema’s phone illustrates that the media and its influence on people’s lives will play a key role in the plotline, and how this may backfire on her. The background focuses on land with a prickly cactus behind Naema, no doubt a play on her fiery character, which suggests the setting will be different to A Song Below Water. The illustration is courtesy of Alan Cabal and Worrell’s design choices create a cover that echoes the playfulness of YA fantasy and keeps the design consistent within the series.

The Endless Skies by Shannon Price

Worrell takes a different design approach for Price’s epic fantasy The Endless Skies that’s darker in tone, using photography. Based in the floating city of Heliana, the story follows protagonist Rowan, 17 years old and training to become a Lenodia; a winged-lion shapeshifter. The Lenodia warriors protect Heliana, which has resulted in a long period of peace, until now.

The illustration is courtesy of Larry Rostant and shows a contrast between light and dark, referencing the conflict within Rowan to become a Lenodia following all her years of training, or to follow a rogue mission to save the city from death. The tagline “loyalty above all” illustrates Rowan’s dedication to her people, and the strong stare in front of her depicts Rowan as a headstrong and determined protagonist. Worell’s design choices don’t leave too much for the reader to guess for fear of spoilers, but Price has filled The Endless Skies with complex world building and the messy love triangle you can expect from a YA Fantasy.


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