I admired Michael Whelan’s art before I ever thought of trying to write a book of my own. Then, when I actually became a writer, Fate (along with my publishers) was kind enough to let me have several of Michael’s most wonderful paintings on my covers over the years. And here I am again. Color me lucky. Every writer in our field who’s ever prayed for a Whelan cover probably hates me right now. Sorry.
So here’s the first glimpse of the cover for my newest novel, The Witchwood Crown, part of my official return to Osten Ard. And I can’t resist gloating just a little.
Michael’s paintings of characters are justifiably famous, and any look at his website or a list of great science fiction and fantasy covers will show you why. But his atmospheric work is just as fine, and this new cover is an excellent example. Many of you will recognize the Hayholt, the central castle (and central symbol, in many ways) from the original series—especially Hjeldin’s Tower on the right, which in the first series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, was the grim redoubt of the sorcerer-priest Pryrates. Yes, (SPOILER) the red priest got obliterated in the last book of MS&T, but his presence remains in the memories of the characters and in the monuments to his horrid actions, of which Hjeldin’s Tower is perhaps the most obvious. This a brilliant interpretation of it. Just looking at it, and without any exaggeration beyond the realms of realism, you can tell that you wouldn’t go in if you could avoid it, and that you wouldn’t get out again unless you were extremely lucky.
Buildings, cities, and settlements have always been a big part of my work. I love fantasy worlds not just for the magical things that happen in them, and the characters they happen to, but for the worlds themselves as well, in all their detail, and cover art is one of the best ways to get that across to readers. People who own (or at least remember) the cover for the final Osten Ard book in the first series, the longish volume titled To Green Angel Tower, will remember its magnificent rendering of the titular tower, showing it as an important icon of both the present and the past. (As in so much of my work, especially the Osten Ard stories, the past itself is a character as important as any person.) Michael did that painting too, but the strong figures of Simon, Miriamele, and the Sithi tend to mask how good the tower itself is in that painting, and how well the general ambience of the book is represented. Here in the Witchwood Crown cover image, the only visible living things are birds—you can decide for yourselves what kind—and we can more easily contemplate the actual space in which a good deal of the story takes place, the ancient castle that has been home to many dynasties, not all of them human.
Like I said, I’ve been lucky to have not only some great paintings on my books over the years, but the work of some great artists who did a lot more than simply show a scene from the story, or pick an iconic object to illustrate. Michael Whelan’s Witchwood Crown cover is a perfect example, and again, I apologize for making some of you jealous.
Don’t hate me because my covers are beautiful. You don’t have to read the book to enjoy the cover (but I wouldn’t mind if you did both).
The Witchwood Crown is available June 27th from DAW. From the catalog copy:
The Dragonbone Chair, the first volume of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, was published in hardcover in October, 1988, launching the series that was to become one of the seminal works of modern epic fantasy. Many of today’s top-selling fantasy authors, from Patrick Rothfuss to George R. R. Martin to Christopher Paolini credit Tad with being the inspiration for their own series.
Now, twenty-four years after the conclusion of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad returns to his beloved universe and characters with The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the long-awaited sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.
Thirty years have passed since the events of the earlier novels, and the world has reached a critical turning point once again. The realm is threatened by divisive forces, even as old allies are lost, and others are lured down darker paths. Perhaps most terrifying of all, the Norns—the long-vanquished elvish foe—are stirring once again, preparing to reclaim the mortal-ruled lands that once were theirs….