“We’re centered on a scene where Jasnah confronts the invaders,” Whelan says of the cover. “A giant has smashed a breach in the city wall, and Jasnah is called upon to restore it.”
“After dispatching several invaders with her Shardblade sword, she covers the gap with a brassy wall of magical metal. It’s a very visual scene, in which I saw a lot of possibilities for good images.”
Jasnah fighting a giant is a strong, evocative image [see: Where Does the Cover to Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer Take Place?] and Whelan’s initial sketches for the cover to Oathbringer focused on building the visual up:
“[These illustrations] are simple color experiments, playing around with creating lightning effects by painting in an acrylic wash them scribing out the lightning with a sharpened chopstick.”
“This is one of the various layout ideas I sketched out for the book cover. I picked the most likely of the pencil sketches and painted them as monochrome value studies, and –”
“This is an example of one of them.”
“This illustration is the one that was selected. I did a small [only 3 inches wide] sketch of the colors I planned for the picture, then went to work on the large and final version.”
“With the next illustration, I had laid in the general areas of color but decided it wasn’t going well. Upon consideration I realized the rocks I had painted into the wall were too distracting, so I repainted them in a simpler and – I hope!– less confusing pattern.The rest of it was just trying to get the image to match the picture I saw in my head.”
With that, the final cover was beginning to take shape.
“Brandon doesn’t elaborate on the formation of the metal which Jasnah casts up to shore up the stone wall,” says Whelan. “But in my mind I saw it as an organic process which, though metallic in texture, would have the appearance of “growing” in to fill the breach, like a stop-motion film of a mold growing or a flower opening. That lead me to thinking of using fractal patterns to define the growing shape of the metallic wall.”
Refinement of the cover proceeded from there, until finally…
Oathbringer, Book 3 of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson is currently scheduled for release on November 14, 2017. It is available for pre-order now.