Summoning a Demon and Capturing a Ward Witch: Behind the Cover of Peter V. Brett’s Final Demon Cycle Novel

You guys, I am so excited to finally share the cover art we’ve spent the last six months working on for The Core. My friends over at Fantasy-Faction had the honor of showing off the first look, but I wanted to get a little more in-depth on the masterful work that went into the project to produce the amazing results that will grace the final novel of the Demon Cycle series.

As I said recently, The Demon Cycle is a project I’ve been working on as a hobby since 1999, and professionally since 2007. A decade ago when I first sold the series and Harper Voyager UK designed the first Larry Rostant cover of Arlen, the plan became to have a different POV character portrait on each book. Arlen and Jardir were the obvious choices for books 1 & 2, and Inevera was unquestionably the choice for book 3, but there were a LOT of other POV character worthy of cover treatment, and only two books left. More than that, I always knew I wanted a mind demon on the cover of The Core. Specifically, the demon whose POV would lead our heroes into darkness, the demon consort, Alagai Ka.

Peter V. Brett Demon Cycle book covers

But putting a demon on the cover was easier said than done. Larry does his best work using real life models, costumes, props and photography, then layers digital art over it to create otherworldy effects with photo-realism. How, then, were we to make a demon? They are notoriously anti-social, and hate light, including the flash of a camera. Plus, they have a nasty tendency to eat the crew.

Then I got this crazy idea.

Anyone who follows my social media feeds knows I’m a big fan of cosplay. My girlfriend Lauren and daughter Cassandra are big ComicCon cosplayers, and I’ve seen how much can be done with even a small budget and some creativity. More, I’ve seen the epic cosplay game some folks bring to cons, and it got me thinking. What if we got a professional monster makeup expert to turn a model into a demon for Larry to do a photoshoot with? Sure, it would cost more than the regular costume and makeup, but corespawn it, this was the series finale and it needed to be awesome.

I pitched the idea to Voyager, who started work with Larry all those years ago, and after some initial reticence, they started pricing things out. Larry was immediately on board with the project, and they brought in the incredible Cliff Wallace at Millennium FX, who on consultation with Larry decided it would be easier to make a bust of the demon to shoot, and work began. I gave them all the material I had, including my own initial sketches of the Alagai Ka, passages from the book describing him, art from my fantastic Polish illustrator Dominik Broniek, fan art, etc. The results were stunning:

The Core cover process demon busts

Once the bust was painted up, we had the old Father of Lies study up on his motivations before the shoot:

The Core cover process demon study The Demon Cycle

Larry found model Chris Bolingbroke to suit up as the demon for the shoot, who gamely hunched and postured and swiped at the camera for hours:

The Core cover process

Finally, after we debated endlessly over the ideal pose, Larry spliced them together in post for a stunning end result:

The Core demon cover Peter V. Brett

But as with previous covers, Del Rey books was not to be outdone. They loved the demon art, but wanted to go a different route, feeling it was high time Leesha Paper, Mistress of the Hollow, finally had her moment to shine. She may have begun as a simple Gatherer in the beginning, but over the course of the series Leesha grew into the leader of the most powerful city-state this side of Krasia, and a formidable ward witch besides.

Two amazing Rostant covers? Who was I to argue?

Larry suggested the gorgeous Fleur Randall to play the part, not least because of her stunning blue eyes, so like our Mistress Leesha. The team and I were sold:

Fleur Randall cover model

Fleur really had her work cut out of her, though. We had so many ideas for her that Larry shot a wide variety of costumes and poses for us to work with, like this Castle Portrait:

The Core cover model Leesha costume The Demon Cycle Peter V. Brett

Simple Herb Gatherer:

The Core cover model Leesha costume The Demon Cycle Peter V. Brett

Ward witch kicking demon ass:

The Core cover model Leesha costume The Demon Cycle Peter V. Brett

Mysterious traveler in her warded cloak:

The Core cover model Leesha costume The Demon Cycle Peter V. Brett

We even did a number of shots in a pregnancy prosthesis, since Leesha enters this book carrying near to full term:

The Core cover model Leesha costume The Demon Cycle Peter V. Brett

But in the end, we decided to link the two covers. We took the best aspects of the shoot, and had Leesha with her hora wand, drawing a mind ward in the air:

The Core Peter V. Brett The Demon Cycle

And it’s a good thing, too. Normally Random House and Voyager stick to their own covers, but the work this time around was so spectacular that they decided to share the art. In the US, the demon image will appear on the board of the book itself, with Leesha protecting herself on the jacket. In the UK, it will be the reverse.

And because it is just too beautiful not to share, here is the full image, sans text, for you to drool over.

The Core Peter V. Brett The Demon Cycle cover art full

And just a reminder, The Core is available now for pre-order, publishing August 15, 2017! If you want to be my true friend, click the link and help a brother out on launch day by placing a pre-order from your preferred vendor.

This article was originally published on Peter V. Brett’s official website.

Peter V. Brett is the internationally bestselling author of the Demon Cycle series, which has sold over two million copies in 25 languages worldwide. Novels include The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, The Daylight War and The Skull Throne. The final novel in the series, The Core, will be published in August 2017. He lives in Manhattan.

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