By Juliette Tulloch, Laura Wallace and Megan Coote
Books about myths and legends, fairytales and folklore are timeless, and new reimaginings of old stories are always exciting to delve into. Take a look at this selection of our favourite covers in this enduring genre and the popular design trends that they follow.
Ithaca by Claire North
Ithaca by Claire North is a defiant retelling of the mythological figure and wife of Odysseus, Penelope of Ithaca. This refashioned myth lends voice to the women of Ithaca and their immortal goddesses in a world ruled by merciless men. Claire North lifts and modernises this tale to engross the reader by shaping the narrative in a way that has never been told before.
The cover mirrors the modernisation of this Greek myth perfectly. The image of Penelope waiting patiently for Odysseus to return home is portrayed by a golden outline of a woman leaning back, weaving golden threads. In the background, Greek-style columns and a large golden sun are visible.
The bold, vibrant orange background and the gold sun perfectly evoke the heat of the Greek islands. The black silhouette of the columns and bench only enriches these striking colours. The unusual inversion of Penelope's white silhouette in the foreground makes this cover so unique and intriguing. The bold black serif typeface in large capital letters at the centre of the cover unifies the imagery seamlessly.
Herc by Phoenicia Rogerson
Continuing the booming trend of Greek myth retellings, here comes the debut novel from Phoenicia Rogerson. Published in August 2023 by the HarperCollins imprint HQ, Rogerson’s novel explores the adventures of Hercules through the lens of those around him – or rather, the women who were marginalised and silenced in the original story. Embracing queerness, feminism and humour, this is sure to hold the attention of fans of A Thousand Ships, Circe and Ariadne.
The cover design spares no detail in highlighting the focus of both the novel and the qualities of the hero, Hercules, that have been overlooked until now. The vertical title style sets it apart from other designs, along with the carefully illustrated creatures that are just one of Hercules's many obstacles. The gold embellishing not only follows the popular design trend in Greek mythology retellings but also adds a premium quality to the cover and echoes the gold apples that Hercules steals from Hera’s garden.
It is clear from the cover design that the perspectives within will be a bold portrayal of what really happened to Hercules's friends and family, including the likes of Alcmene, Hylas and Megara.
Elektra by Jennifer Saint
Elektra by Jennifer Saint is another retelling of the story of the Trojan War, this time drawn from the perspective of the fearless women at the heart of it all.
The gorgeous cover was designed by Micaela Alcaino, who also designed the cover for Jennifer Saint’s previous book, Ariadne and her most recent release, Atlanta. In a behind-the-scenes interview, Alcaino said she wanted to create a cover that “portrayed the book’s themes of freedom, entrapment and revenge,” and she has certainly achieved this. The figure of Elektra is front and centre. With her stance strong and her dagger raised to strike, she evokes a sense of power. The green and black colour palette contrasts nicely, and the touches of gold throughout the design – from the columns to the golden wreaths – give the cover a magical, regal look, which is perfect for a Greek myth retelling.
Babel by R. F. Kuang
R. F. Kuang’s bestselling novel has famously gained incredible popularity, with the author being praised as one of the most influential in the fantasy genre. The story deals with student tensions, betrayal and resistance. Compared to other stories in the genre, Babel focuses more on war than mythical fantasy – however, the story is still an incredibly interesting read.
The highly detailed image at the centre of the cover paints a picture of the setting of this historical epic. In addition to this, the sketched style of the cover adds to the evocation of the time period in which Kuang has set the story. Additionally, the sole use of black and white highlights the story's tone while accentuating its beauty. The title, embellished in gold and placed against the gloomy backdrop, indicates to the reader the novel's grand scale before even opening the first page. Ultimately, the cover is striking, bold and perfectly designed for a fantasy story.