May 18 2012 1:00pm

The Cover Reveal for New Steampunk Novel Stormdancer

The cover for Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer

This is the cover for my debut novel Stormdancer. I love it like Westley loved Buttercup. Like Han loved Leia. Like Jaime loved Cersei. No… wait, ewwww….

As far as I know, the secret behind a good cover seems to be “hire a good illustrator and get the frak out of the way,” but I’m not sure I can pad that out to 800 words, so I’ve asked the stonkingly talented illustrator behind Stormdancer’s cover, Mr. Jason Chan, to help out.


Jason: To begin, I was given a rough comp of what the cover should be, Stormdancer cover processchosen from a handful of different directions hashed out between Jay and St. Martin’s. I provided a few sketches, but the designer I was working with didn’t feel that the illustration had the qualities that I normally had in my artwork. He wanted me to do my own take on the cover to see what I could come up with.

I thought focusing on making the cover graphic as opposed to an actual scene would work well, so I decided to use the thunder tiger (white) and the blood lotus (red) as very strong graphical elements. This left me with a white and red background, which not only describes two important subjects of the story, but also alludes to the Japanese flag as well as blood and the corruption of purity. I also zoomed in on Yukiko and made sure to hint at her face.

Stormdancer cover process

Stormdancer cover process

Stormdancer cover process

Jay Kristoff: At this point, I got sent comps of where Jason was at, both the design we were expecting, and the design he’d come up with under his own steam. This was the first I heard Jason was doing my cover (I was huge fan of his MTG stuff), and I think my air guitar solo lasted around 17 minutes.

I loved the new design he’d done. My only concern was… now, you’re going to think I’m a freak when you read this, but my concern was the griffin’s…accoutrements.

Seriously, we’re looking right up at him! Am I the only one who thinks like this? Where is his gear? Not that I’d spent an enormous amount of time pondering the physiology of griffin love, but I’m pretty sure they’re, as Commander Data would say, fully functional.

I suggested we change angles. I could feel my editor’s withering glare through my monitor, but he passed the request on and Jason seemed to agree.

Stormdancer cover process

Jason: With the second direction approved, we tried a couple of versions with different griffin poses, but in the end Yukiko and griffin were competing too much and lacked some of the mood from the stormy sky—

Kristoff: Wait… so you’re saying it wasn’t the wiener thing?

Jason: …No.

Kristoff: Oh.

Jason: …In the end, we settled on something between the two original versions, with Yukiko and the flat graphic blood lotus, plus the dramatic sky and distant griffin in the background from the previous comp.

Stormdancer cover process

Kristoff: After the illustration was done, we focused on typography. Stormdancer’s setting is Japanese-inspired, but it’s also heavily influenced by steampunk, and I thought steampunk was the one element we hadn’t yet fully portrayed in the illustration. I sent in my ideas for font treatments and we went back and forth until we found something everyone was happy with.

Jason: I think came together very nicely.

Kristoff: …are you sure it wasn’t the—

Jason: YES!

Kristoff: …fine.

The cover for Jay Kristoff’s Stormdancer

Jay Kristoff has managed to trick the world into thinking he’s an author. His debut novel, Stormdancer, billed as a dystopian Japanese-inspired steampunk fantasy, will be released Spring 2012 through Thomas Dunne/Tor UK.

Jason Chan is a full-time concept artist with Massive Black Inc., working for clients in the video game and entertainment industries. A number of the notable clients Jason has worked with through Massive Black include Sega, Sony Entertainment, Microsoft, BioWare, Electronic Arts, and many more.

Paul Weimer
1. PrinceJvstin
Are there actual Griffins in this novel? :)
2. DradisContact
Seems so. From B&

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her father are commanded to capture one for the murderous Shogun of the Shima Isles, they fear their lives are over. After disaster befalls the mission, Yukiko finds herself stranded in the wilderness with only the crippled griffin Buruu for company...
3. MatthewGHunter
Looks fantastic you two! Well done.
4. Katie @ BlookGirl
This cover is GORGEOUS! 1,000,000,000x better than the UK cover (sorry, UK!) I cannot wait to read and review Stormdancer on my blog. It's sure to be an amazing read! Thanks for the fabulous play-by-play on the cover design. Very fascinating :-)
Mordicai Knode
5. mordicai
Yes! I read an advance copy of this & I was really feeling it-- I had been thinking of going in a quasi-Japanese direction with my next roleplaying campaign, sort of inspired by Legend of the Five Rings, so I read this in the perfect mindset. I am glad that it got the right cover; I'm a big fan. & yeah, sorry UK cover, but this one has a griffin & a red haze that at least hints at the atmosphere of the setting. Anyhow, I am amped!
6. Kai in NYC
Why's her ass hanging out? That's what I want to know.
7. Question
Isn't this essentially the exact same pose that was being criticized in a recent article on
8. Heather Rosdol
Brilliant! Absolutely love the post and knowing how the cover came together and yes Jay, we would have wondered about his junk! He is a Griffin- he must have junk! I think the compromise is perfect!

Buried in Books
9. AlBrown
This was a great article, I love seeing how the artistic process works, from first drafts to final product.
10. Pabkins
I think I just wet myself in excitement. Its gorgeous!! beautiful yes yes must haves it now! Don't make me stalk you! oh wait too late for that *evil Laguhter*
Natasa Anastasiou
11. NatasaWMYB
*gasp* the cover is too awesome for my eyes!! *runs away*

No seriously, though. This has got to be one of the best covers of 2012. Incredible job, Jason Chan!! Thank you!!
12. Jen B.
The cover progression is amazing. I love to see how it changed and grew and got sooooo much better. It turned out gorgerous!
13. Cass A.
I pre-ordered the book on Book Depository so I presume I'll get the UK cover version. I'm a little sad, now I've seen the US one, entirely because of the griffin. He's gorgeous!
14. Chelle Ang
This cover took my breath away, it's soooo gorgeous! Finally, someone was willing to step outside the box on this design. Kudos to Jason & Jay. I'm eager to read this book.
15. Victoria Dixon
Stunning cover and I cannot way to read this book.
16. Victoria Dixon
Grrr. Argh. Cannot WAIT .... Sigh.
Jay Kristoff
18. JayKristoff
Hey guys, thanks for all the cover love. Really glad you like it. I'm petitioning the Queen of England to hook Jason Chan up with a knighthood, so if any of you know her, put in a good word, yeah?
19. Ken W.
Gorgeous cover, really love the works by Jason Chan. I like #4 even though the griffin might be stealing the show. It reminds me of the game Okami.
Petra Poet
20. safaripoet
An amazing cover! Had some LOL moments courtesy of Jay and his obsession with the Griffin's... accoutrements :-)
Jaimi Pike
21. jaimipike
22. Giselle
OH MY! I love this cover. Jason Chan, you did such a beautiful job! Can you make this into a desktop wallpaper!! I would definitely download it. You did such a beautiful job!

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