The Fantasy World of Sarah J Maas: Cover Design
By Giulia Caparrelli, Beccy Fish and Juliette Tulloch
To celebrate the release of international best-selling fantasy author, Sarah J Maas’, latest novel, House of Sky and Breath from the Crescent City series, we are going to take a look at how her book covers have developed through the years and how the fantasy world of each book series has come to life through their cover design.
Crescent City is Maas’ most recent series and planned trilogy, which, so far, includes House of Earth and Blood (2020) and House of Sky and Breath (2022). Set in a fantasy world where different magical creatures are ordered into “houses” and can barely coexist with humans, the novels follow the life and misadventures of protagonist Bryce Quinlan, half-fae, half-human, in a struggle to avenge her murdered best friend and bring peace to her city.
Revenge and a thirst for power are key elements, which drive characters, fallen angels and demons alike, into a restless fight. Slowly, though, romance also makes its way into the story, among crimes, mysteries, drugs and wars. House of Earth and Blood’s book cover exemplifies the strong emotions evoked by the novel and the crumbling state of its world and that of its protagonist’s inner life. The prominence of the colour red hints at the strong passions of the characters and at all the blood shed between their warring peoples. House of Sky and Breath’s design is both similar and completely different to the previous book. The colour palette is colder and the character portrayed is a man, Hunt Athalar, who fought alongside Bryce in the first novel. The crescent moon is retained, being the symbol of the city - Lunathion - where the main characters live, and also the emblem of Luna, the city’s goddess. Both convoluted book designs are a perfect match to the adventurous and fantasy plots.
Throne of Glass (2012) revolves around Celaena, the infamous young assassin who is given the opportunity to become the King’s personal assassin after competing against the most talented thieves and killers of her world. When a string of bodies is discovered in the castle, the mystery unravels to not only involve Celaena’s ancestors, but also the dark creatures that lurk under the castle. Queen of Shadows (2015) follows the act of revenge Celaena wishes to take against the king, using witch-conjured monsters as weapons against him. These beautifully designed covers clearly belong in the fantasy genre family, with mysterious and mythical-like figures displayed proudly in the centre, whilst wielding sleek weapons to demonstrate their power and skills. With Celaena being the focal point on each cover, it is evident she is the driving force throughout the story. The bold serif typeface helps to cement the fantasy theme by suggesting an old or lost world which is shared across all eight covers, helping to tie them cohesively. These covers are a beautiful contrast of each other, starting with a more minimal colour palette to begin the story, which alludes to a more innocent character, unlike the cover of the fourth book which is emblazoned with red, alluding to wrath, danger and the darker side of the series.
Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses was published in 2015 and quickly grew into a five-part series, as well as a colouring book (2017). It follows Feyre Archeron, a mortal whose ability to survive rests on hunting and killing during the hard winter months. In a turn of events, she is brought to the faerie lands of Prythian, the result of killing a faerie, and must adjust to the court life. This high fantasy novel encompasses the key themes of an ancient curse, an enemies to lovers affair and survival in an unfamiliar land. The series is inspired by various fairy tales, including Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin, as well as Greek mythology, as seen in the characters of the Night Court. The designers of the series’ initial cover include Adrian Dadich and Charlie Bowater, who created covers that were designed more for the teen section. By 2020, the popularity of the series had picked up, particularly due to the rise of Young Adult books on TikTok, so Bloomsbury issued new covers in America and classed the series as part of the New Adult genre. The latest illustration is courtesy of Happy Pets and design is by Patti Ratchford. The bolder and more colourful designs focus less on Feyre herself and instead follow the growing design trends for fine lines and striking titles.