Fri
Jan 14 2011 3:00pm

Raymond Swanland and the Towers of Midnight ebook cover

Towers of Midnight, volume thirteen in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, will be available in ebook form on January 31st. In celebration of Jordan’s work, we have commissioned fourteen artists to interpret one of the Wheel of Time books in their own style. (Previous editions can be seen here.)

This was a lesson in, “when you have smart people advising you, listen to them!”

When it came time to work on The Towers of Midnight cover, Jason Denzel and Leigh Butler immediately described this sequence of Perrin forging a war hammer, driven by the power of saidin.

As Jason said, “I knew when I read the scene what had to go on the ebook cover.... It was an iconic moment for Perrin, and a chance to showcase everything that makes him the character we love.” Leigh was in complete agreement, “It was wonderful, not only for the inherent coolness of the act itself, but for what it symbolized, which was Perrin, at long goddamn last, finally accepting who and what he was.... it was one of the coolest things to ever happen in the series.”

Clearly it struck an emotional chord in fans of the series and I knew it would be a great visual...but so close to the end of the series, I was hoping to showcase Rand. And there are awesome Rand battle scenes in this book! But no matter how many people I asked, including all of the WoT community on Tor.com, everyone kept mentioning this scene. Clearly Jason and Leigh knew what they were talking about. As always. 

So, Perrin it would be.

Raymond Swanland was on the top of my wish-list from the begining of this project but with so few books left, I couldn’t help but to look around carefully. Still, I never realy wavered from my first impression. I knew that Raymond could handle the dramatic lighting in play and be able to invoke tremendous power in the figure work. Even assuming the best, I was still blown away by the depth of emotion he captured in Perrin. Those eyes, lost in a trance, unminding of the natural world but absolutely focused on the chaos and activity around him.... You don’t have to know the story beforehand to get shivers looking at it.

See the initial sketches and read Raymond’s reaction to the project below:

Raymond Swanland: When I first heard about the Wheel of Time series from my friends in high school I was already wrapped-up mid-flow in Frank Herbert’s epic methodical sci-fi Dune saga, followed directly by the Stephen King’s archetypal surrealist Dark Tower series. By the time I was ready for my next serialized epic, I was a bit daunted by the seven or eight books that lay between me and my friends’ feverish excitement for the next installment. Time passed and it slipped onto my literary “to do” list, but never quite hit the top. Yet I swore I would take on the challenge one day.

Boom! More than a decade, and twice as many books in the series later, I have the opportunity to create the ebook cover for the 13th WOT novel, Towers of Midnight. With the 40th chapter, titled “A Making,” pre-selected as the scene to visually exemplify the book, I had my starting place. The moment had finally come for me to read my first pages of the Wheel of Time.

Towers of Midnight ebook cover art sketchOnce I read through the chapter about the symbolic act of Perrin Aybara forging a war hammer, representing his choice to put away his emotional baggage and embrace leadership, it was clear that I had a lot of catching up to do. Though time was tight, I knew the scene deserved the maximum research I could cover. I listened through Towers of Midnight on audio while working on other projects and traveling. I plowed through the plethora of information available about the first dozen books to get a sense for the arc of the story, and in particular, Perrin’s journey. Finally I came to a place where I felt that I understood Perrin enough to depict a moment of important resolution for him. It was time for the imagery to take over.

Towers of Midnight ebook cover art sketchTowers of Midnight ebook cover art sketch

All the way though his story, Perrin has a very stoic and reserved personality that rarely allows blatant emotion to come through. Most of his personal conflict takes place internally. Therefore, it was my approach from early on that his moment of self-realization would not so much be written on his face as represented in the symbols andatmospheric forces around him. His connection with the primal natural world through his wolf nature and his time spent in a spiritual dreamscape gave me the perfect setting for his cover image—somewhere between the tangible and the archetypal.  The forging of the hammer takes place in the physical world of his peoples’ camp, but I wanted to depict him separated from the others in a sort of mist of consciousness that isolates him as he contemplates his intent.

Towers of Midnight ebook cover art sketchAlthough I explored imagery of Perrin in the middle of his process of working­­ his blacksmith ways, forging the raw metal, it was always quite clear that the ideal moment to depict was the instant he finished the hammer and realized what he had made. The form of the weapon is clear and so is his sense of purpose.

Towers of Midnight ebook cover art sketch

With the final composition chosen, of Perrin’s golden eyes gazing down at his glowing creation, my concentration turned to bringing the symbolic elements into focus. A wolf-emblazoned banner ripples behind him, more as a memory of Hopper counseling him than a representation of his own spirit. Sparks and flames rise up from the forge to almost envelop him as a wash of emotion drives him to create. Even fur lining his jerkin gives him a hint of animal wildness.  Ultimately, his own wolf spirit, the spirit of the Wolf King, manifests in the heat and smoke from his creation like a phoenix from ashes as he makes his decision to be a leader. Perrin is ready to rock ‘n’ roll!

Although it’s a little disorienting, or even a little sacrilegious, to jump into a story as epic and expansive as the Wheel of Time so close to the end and work my way back, it’s been an immersive experience of the highest order. A crash course rather than a slow build. Regardless, it’s a personal resolution that’s long overdue. It’s given me a taste of what I’ve been missing out on all these years. I think it’s a good time for me to go back…to the beginning.

Towers of Midnight ebook cover art sketch


A quick progression of the painting:


To keep up with all of our Wheel of Time posts, including information on the ebook releases, check out our Wheel of Time Index.

To see this cover larger, please visit the Dragonmount feature.

To see more of Raymond Swanland’s illustrations please visit his website and Tor.com gallery.

60 comments
Barry T
2. blindillusion
Wow. Now that is truly MOA.

Sorry, just had to come back to say...damn, that is awesome.
Lucas Vollmer
4. aspeo
That is pretty amazing! This scene definitely makes one of the best covers yet!
Chris Greenland
5. greenland
So Perrin was Patrick Rothfuss this WHOLE TIME?
trench
6. trench
Where is my Jaw? It fell off when this site loaded up and I saw this. I can't even describe how awesome this is. Wonderful job Mr. Swanland. I think you just had a CMOA.

Now where did my mandible go?
Tess Laird
7. thewindrose
Hello Perrin! Wow, I might be understanding the Faile/Berelain thing now.
All joking aside, I am truly moved by this depiction of Perrin. And also by Raymond Swanland 's journey to get to this amazing piece of art.
Thank Mr Swanland, Leigh, Jason, Irene and Tor for this epic picture.

tempest™
John Skotnik
8. ShooneSprings
This is the best looking cover yet. Well done, sir!
Sam Mickel
9. Samadai
This is the part of the book I thought should be on the cover as well. What can I say but Awesome, amazing job, very impressed
Thomas Keith
10. insectoid
O_O Wow!!

Great job Raymond and Irene and co.!!
Sim Tambem
11. Daedos
This turned out superb.

It is probably just me, but I think the forth "sketch" would have turned out just as powerful, if not more so. Look at the lighting--the concentration--the impact.

Wow.

If you're reading this, Raymond, do you still have that sketch? If so, is it for sale?
Evan Langlinais
12. Skwid
OMG! When & where can I buy a print? I'm dead serious; this is amazing work!
Tricia Irish
13. Tektonica
Absolutely beautiful. I never had a good picture of Perrin in my head, but this does it very very nicely!

I love the wolf in the smoke and embers, whether it'sPerrin's wolf nature or His guardian wolf, Hopper.....The golden eyes.....They symbols on the hammer. Great work Mr. Swanland!
James Hogan
14. Sonofthunder
Simply beautiful.

And this joins the other Perrin cover as being my favorite ebook covers thus far. Very, very well done indeed!!
Brandon Daggerhart
15. BDaggerhart
Very awesome work, one of the best in the series.
trench
16. ScoundrelTheToy
Those pictures of Perrin are bloody amazing. I can see why Faile is attracted to the Wolf King!
trench
17. jakehoe
This is beyond epic and as awesome as all the other ebook cover art.
Will these ever be available for the Audible.com audiobook downloads? It would be awesome to see this peering out from the screen of my iPhone for my next listen. Can I suggest you add them to those files soon and in super high resolution, please?? Thanks!
James Hogan
18. Sonofthunder
Oh and I also wouldn't mind a copy of this. Irene...calendar? *nudge*
trench
19. ScoundrelTheToy
...and I would go weak in the knees if I ever ran into someone that looked that...menacing!
A.J. Bobo
20. Daedylus
Beautiful.
Amazing.
Wow.
Apparently my ability to describe the coolness of this cover is gone. I have a new favorite.
Sacha G
21. Fortune_Prick_Me
Pure primal power - this painting is one of the best! It's a depiction of Perrin that explains his passion when tracking down Faile and captures his Wolf side like I have never seen before. Like others I've never had a clear mental image of Perrin, until now.
Like every new book in the series, this is an added dimension to one of my favorite things. Thank you for enhancing my experience of the Wheel of Time!
Rich Bennett
23. Neuralnet
Wow! These ebook covers are universally amazing but this one just blows me away.
trench
24. Halibulu
First off, this dude just KILLED it! Phenomenal job sir!

But I've gotta be honest, even though most of me was yearning for this depiction, part of me really wanted to see someone capture the anguish, shame, love, and pure humbleness of Rand on his knees before Tam begging his forgiveness. Only scene in the series that brought tears to my eyes, and it still moves me like no other can. However, I'm not entirely sure such a complex range of emotion could have been captured properly (hence my curiosity to see the attempt), but man oh man! This is one powerful shot of Perrin!

Anyone else notice how he seems to get the coolest covers?
trench
25. PersonalMoniker
For the love of the Light, please put these up for sale as prints or let us have print-resolution files! I want this on my wall!
Irene Gallo
26. Irene
Thanks guys! Raymond was a dream to work with. Once I settled my "what scene" jitters, the whole thing flowed together easily.

@11 Lambson. Yeah, number 4 is awesome! I spent a long while looking at that one. It was a tough call. I;;m sure it would have been equally good.

@24 Halibu. man, I so wish I could go back and do a whole other batch of images for each book. There's o much to draw from. Well, part of me wishes that...unfortunately, not the part that has deadlines and budgets.

Really glad you you all like it! (So far, anyway ;-) WoT fans are so dedicated, it's very gratifying to think we’ve been able to add to Jordan’s world in our way.
trench
27. iamnotspam
This is the defining picture in my head of Perrin now before I always saw him as rounder faced and just large but this makes him just who he needs to be. These covers have been great and this one is one of the best. This one like the earlier one of Matt just exemplifies who the characters are and are now how I see them when I read. Waiting for someone to do the same for Rand.
Thanks and yes I wouldn't mind this on my wall either.
jimmy huckaby
28. lazysk8r
no words can truely express the scene, and that cover. So I'm not going to even try.
trench
29. jwillis7
this is awesome, and again i will say i would buy the hardcovers over again if they had these covers
John Massey
30. subwoofer
Whoot!

Totally covered in awesome sauce yo!

Creative license gave Perrin straight hair instead of his normal curliness, but meh- the strength of the image speaks for itself. Georgous cover. Now why the deuce could't this actually be done before the books hit the shelves so we can deal in on these. I betcha TOR would sell another million copies just on the strength of this cover. Yeah, you can't judge a book by its cover, but it goes a long way to sell what is inside.


Woof™.
Bernhard Fries
31. Iwan_Emmetowitsch
I've read the book now two times and must have listened to the Audio version a hundred times or more and this is definitely the perfect scene for ToM.
After first reading the book, I thought about Rand and his stand in "A Storm of Light", but after listening to the Audiobook, where you can really feel the intensity of this CMOA.

And now Mr. Swanland has done a superb job of capturing that feeling. I look at this picture and get the shivers, GREAT!!
trench
32. b.c.smith
Wow. Very neat cover, but had it not been for the fact that it was related to WOT, I would have (actually anybody) mistaken it for a new black company cover art (which I now WOT is much more lighter in tone than black company).
Justin Levitt
34. TyranAmiros
Another awesome cover! Any chance of getting a calendar with the E-book images?
trench
35. DarrenJL
+1 for Tyran's awesome suggestion! 12 images, 12 months! I'd pick it up!
trench
36. Raand
PLEASE RE RELEASE THE BOOKS WITH THESE COVERS... I was awe struck the moment I saw this cover. Perrin has alwasy been my favorite character and this scene in the book made him that much better.
trench
37. Fenric25
Once again, an incredible cover featuring one of the best scenes of the book. Though at first I felt the cover would have had Mat, Moiraine and the Finns at the Tower of Ghenjei, I do feel this scene is far, far better suited to the cover. Love it very much, add me to the list of people who want the books re-printed with these covers instead. Great stuff, can't wait to see what we get when AMoL comes out next year...
Maggie K
38. SneakyVerin
This is so beautiful there just are not words...It also changes the picture of Perrin in my mind, but definitely for the better!

My only complaint would be that it just isn't fair that Perrin has the two best e-book covers! Yay Perrin
trench
39. aanallein
Absolutely amazing. I would pay a lot of money to have a print of this mounted in my office. This is the mental picture I had at this point in the series brought to life. Stunning work.
trench
40. aanallein
Oh and agreed with previous posts -

If the series were re-released with these images in hardback I would purchase the entire set again (some of which I've already bought twice). These covers are THAT good.
Mike McD
41. msmcdon
Seriously, how awesome would these covers look on my bookshelf... I'd get a new set!
Alice Arneson
43. Wetlandernw
Leigh - I was wondering just how to say what I was thinking... As usual, you got it. Echo!
Jay Dauro
44. J.Dauro
Great work. I love all of the new covers (especially Perrin) and this one again knocks it out of the park.

I admit I cheat a bit. I do load the new covers on the audiobooks, so I can see them when I listen.
April Moore
45. aprildmoore
I don't have the ebooks, but these covers sure have me wanting to change my mind! Beautiful job.
R B
46. MasterAlThor
I think I fell and bumped my head.

*rubs eyes*

Nope, I have just seen the most awesome thing evar!!!!!

Dragon
trench
47. SatishM
I like this! Correction: Its forged with the power of saidin AND SAIDAR :D
Chris Vos
49. ChrisVos
Wow, realy love this cover!
My only gripe is that the glowing flecks of ash that float in the foreground all appear to be instances of the same graphic that in most cases have only been stretched and rotated a bit. Now that I've seen that, they distract from the coolness of the rest of the image :(
Ben Frey
50. BenPatient
visually, it's great. MY only gripe is that he doesn't quite come off as "curly haired" here, does he?

Pretty sure that's one of the first things we learn about Perrin, in like Chapter 1 of TEOTW.
trench
51. WhiteVoodoo
Fantastic cover.
Why do the print-covers always suck then? Just get this guy to do them IMHO.
trench
52. joe heron
nice, and with the hi-res from dragonmount i can print this out and have a new worthy cover for my book!
Julian Augustus
53. Alisonwonderland
I think it is an okay cover, but I don't share the drooling many of you are doing over it. I agree the scene belongs on the cover, but this interpretation is not that great. I have the same problem with this cover as I had with the tGS cover - it is too much of a close-up. In my head I picture a wider shot, with Perrin pounding the hammer on a glowing forge, Neald on one side in his black coat channeling saidin into the hammer and the AS on the other side channeling saidar. Compared to that, this painting is just bleh.
trench
54. MistiS
Rather than re-releasing the entire series, Tor could just reprint the hardcover jackets and sell them separately. It would be less of a financial risk and I'd definitely buy them all.
Michael Maxwell
55. pike747
My pick for the right scene but there were certainly some other great possibilities. I thought Perrin had curly blonde or dirty blonde hair. I can almost see another small wolf head near his right thigh. Great facial expression. He really does look fierce and imposing. So happy to have a reason to post here ;~{|} Hello WOT fans!
Alice Arneson
56. Wetlandernw
Heya, pike! Where have you been lately? Seems that you've been gone for several months - or am I just inobservant?
Michael Maxwell
57. pike747
@56 Wetlandernw
Your observation is correct. I have been staying busy learning new things in the realm of code and marketing. I am also trying to remain sane waiting for AMoL or at least the pre-game warm up of said.
I just realized the significance of your moniker. How appropriate! I am originally from the arid waste portion of WA east of the Dragonwall so to speak. I now reside in upstate NY. I miss the two rivers, Yakima and Naches, the Mountains of Mist. I can totally relate to our heroes on that score.
Great to hear from a WOT veteran. Imagine how great and sad this last novel will be for us.
On a separate note I see so many negative comments about the original covers but I just don’t seem to hate them like many do. They have their quirks but I remain fond of them and also love the new work for the e books.
I guess duopotamia is a common place for humans to settle because we have the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers here.
~pike
trench
58. Cody91
It's a gorgeous cover, of that there is no doubt, but I'm a little dissapointed at the choice of this scene because well... I didn't like it. It was just to corny to me with Perrin spontaneously starting to forge and the Asha'man all "Like OMG idk wtf I was doing it was instinct." It felt far too forced to me like it had to happen but they weren't sure how to get there.

My preferred choice of scene would have been something from the Tower of Ghenjei or Rand against the Shadowspawn in Saldea.
T C
60. Freelancer
I agree that this scene had to be the choice for the ebook cover. I remember when Irene polled the site for opinions, and it was a landslide. The power of the scene is just too grand to be ignored.

The only scene which could possibly have competed with the Forging of Aegis-Fang, Mjollnir, Mah'alleinir would be Mat carving the triangle exit from the Tower of Ghenjei with his ashandarei, Thom leaping through carrying Moiraine, and Jain in the background holding off the 'Finn. How long had faithful WoT readers waited to get Moiraine back? The scene itself is marvelously executed, but well beyond that is the emotional relief of resolving quite possibly the world's longest cliff-hanger. And it would have been a singular pairing where the print and ebook covers handled two ends of the same plot segment.
Robert Crawley
61. Alphaleonis
This is a great picture. I've had it as the background on my computer for the past week. It's a great picture of someone. But it is not Perrin. You know, Perrin - the one with the BROWN CURLY hair, a FULL BEARD, EYES that GLOW YELLOW even in a small amount of light.

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