How the Cover Was Decided for V. E. Schwab’s New Book A Darker Shade of Magic |

How the Cover Was Decided for V. E. Schwab’s New Book A Darker Shade of Magic

We’ve got an exciting bundle of announcement for fans of V.E. Schwab’s debut novel Vicious. The author has a new book coming on February 25, 2015 titled A Darker Shade of Magic and you can check the cover out right now!

London itself can be too much for the average citizen, but stack a succession of unseen Londons on top of that and…well, read on to see how artist Will Staehle went about turning that idea into a book cover.

From Will:

V.E. Schwab is an incredible author. My apologies to the masses who are currently simultaneously shouting at their screens “We already knew that!” For me, A Darker Shade of Magic was my introduction to her writing, and I can guarantee that it will not be my last time reading her works.

The story is that of Kell, a messenger of sorts that travels between London(s) Yes. plural. There are four. (You know what they say, you can never have enough of a good thing!)

For the cover I tried a variety of approaches. Initially, I illustrated Kell in an abstract red jacket made from a map of London. In another (a more photo-collaged version) Kell stands at the gateway to another London, anchored by a postage stamp. One of my favorite designs featured a mapped hand of London, while veins ran through the “city.” I thought this one worked especially well since blood plays an important part of the traveling ritual.

The winning design (which I’m quite ecstatic about) began as a small thumbnail sketch in my sketchbook and went surprisingly unchanged through to the final design. I very much liked the idea of a top view of Kell “jumping” between two different Londons, his remarkable coat whipping behind him in a bold and graphic way. Once we locked on this design we went back and forth on a few possible type solutions, but ended up with this narrow serif. Lettering that feels a bit turn-of-the-century, while also creating a nice contrast from the very strong graphic circles of the cover.

V.E. Schwab A Darker Shade of Magic cover Will Staehle


From Tor Books Art Director Irene Gallo:

Will is a very generous designer. The pleasure and the pain of working with him is seeing so many great options and knowing that you can only choose one. Here are a few of the outtakes for A Darker Shade of Magic that Will mentions above.

First up…I loved Kell’s map-jacket but ultimately thought this one was just a little too YA-looking for the book.

V.E. Schwab A Darker Shade of Magic cover Will Staehle


The below cover was, again, great looking but I worried that it was starting to look a bit like a horror novel; a little “jack the ripper” with the veins.

V.E. Schwab A Darker Shade of Magic cover Will Staehle


This is a beautiful cover but not as unique to this stroy as the final one we chose.

V.E. Schwab A Darker Shade of Magic cover Will Staehle


I could see the below cover working well on the paperback edition, but I was more excited about the stylization on the final for the hardcover.

V.E. Schwab A Darker Shade of Magic cover Will Staehle


Now that you’ve seen the process the cover went through, here’s the final again. It is both playful and smart, sugesting that there is a really fun and clever adventure to be had. 

V.E. Schwab A Darker Shade of Magic cover Will Staehle


V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic will be out in February 2015. Here’s what you can expect from the story:

From V.E. Schwab, the critically acclaimed author of Vicious, comes a new universe of daring adventure, thrilling power, and parallel Londons, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic.

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.


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