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12 Awesome Fantasy Covers on my Bookshelf

posted by Matt Ward on Jul 10, 2009.

A look at 12 of my favorite covers from the fantasy novels on my bookshelf. Featuring artists such as Keith Parkinson, Todd Lockwood and Stephen Youll.

I have a lot of fantasy novels. In fact, I have an entire 6 foot bookshelf crammed full of them. I’ve never really bothered to count them, but I have them stacked two deep on some shelves and it absolutely sucks when I have to move them.

Still, it is one of my favorite places in the house. There are so many great stories there, and great memories. Some of those books I’ve had since the eigth grade, when my lifelong love affair with fantasy really began. Many of them also feature some really cool cover illustrations, which I will sometimes just go and look at, either for inspiration or for the sheer pleasure of the artwork.

Looking through them the other day, I thought that it would make a great blog post to feature some of my favorite works. At first, I was just going to post them all, but soon I found myself writing a little blurb about each cover. Because some of the covers were created by the same illustrators, I have also grouped them together under different artist headings.

So here they are: 12 awesome fantasy covers straight from my bookshelf. Enjoy!

Darrell K. Sweet

If you’re into fantasy at all, or even if you’ve walked past the fantasy section in your local book store, chances are you’ve at least caught a glimpse of Darrell K. Sweet‘s work. He is, I think, most famous for providing the cover art for Robert Jordan’s ridiculously huge Wheel of Time series. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of most of the images, but this one really strikes a chord with me. I also think it’s Sweet’s best rendering of Rand al’Thor.


My favorite Wheel of Time cover

Todd Lockwood

Todd Lockwood is a master of his art. He is undoubtedly one of my favorite artists in the genre, and it’s amazing how many of my books have his art on the cover. I include two of his covers here. The first is from the Annotated Chronicles, a collection of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – the foundational trilogy that established the DragonLance franchise and one of my favorite series.


Lockwood is a master at painting dragons

The other book is The Kingless Land, which I found in a used bookstore and, honestly, bought purely because of the cover. It actually wasn’t my favorite book to be sure, but the cover art remains one of my favorite images of heroic fantasy, so I absolutely had to include it here!


One of my favorite pieces of fantasy art...ever

Jean Pierre Targete

I don’t know much about Jean Pierre Targete, other than the fact that is work is eerily beautiful. I first saw this work in Fantasy Art Now, and incredible collection of works from many of the industry’s most talented emerging artsts. When I later saw this The Fair Folk on sale at Chapters, I decided to pick it up. I haven’t got around to reading any of the stories yet, but I sometimes take the book of the shelf just to look at the cover art.


Eerie and beautiful

Michael Whelan

Michael Whelan is a prolific illustrator, whose work has graced the covers of some of the biggest names in the fantasy genre, including Ann McCaffery, Piers Anthony and Tad Williams. His incredible artwork for the cover of To Green Angel Tower is, for me, one of the most iconic works modern fantasy. It’s also probably one of my favorite books in modern fantasy, so the two certainly go well together.


An icon of modern fantasy

Sorcery Rising is an interesting one. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it is about this cover that draws me in. There’s nothing particularly exciting, but I’ve always just really liked this work, which is vastly more complex than I think it initially appears.


Simply captivating

Stephen Youll

Stephen Youll is another prolific artist, whose art has also graced the covers of some of fantasy’s most popular works, including what might very well be the single greatest fantasy novel of the 1990s – George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I really love this image, which I can only assume is Jon Snow and his direwolf, Ghost. There is another edition of this book which features the illustration across the entire cover, but I had a difficult time finding a decent image of it, so this one will just have to do.

Now, if you will excuse a bit of a digression, let me say that of the 12 books listed here, this hands down, the best. If you are a fan of modern fantasy, do yourself a favour and get a copy of this book. My only warning is that there is some bad language, and some overly intimate scenes which I just gloss over. Still, it’s an incredible book and the ending will blow your mind.


Just wish the illustration was bigger

Now back to the task at hand. I certainly don’t want to pigeonhole Mr. Youll as an artist who only paints wintery scenes, but here we have another one of my favorite book covers. I think it has to do with the snowy owl, which just adds a real sense of mystery to the illustration. There is also something about the design of this cover which really reminds me of some of the old Lord of the Rings covers. One problem I do have with this cover, though, is the simple fact that, based on the illustration, you would never know that one of the main themes of this book is the protagonist’s struggle against the demon/dragon that posseses him!


The owl's cool, but where's the dragon?

Steve Stone

More than any of the artists listed here, Steve Stone clearly works digitally. There is a definite feeling of photo manipulation mixed with digital painting in his work, and the cover for Shadowfall is an excellent example. I couldn’t say for sure, but it certainly looks like the woman (actually a goddess) looks like she could have been created from a photograph. Regardless, there is an incredibly sinister feel to this cover.


A truly sinister image

Keith Parkinson

The loss of Keith Parkinson, at the age of 47, represented a terrible loss for the fantasy art community. Keith, who is probably my favorite fantasy artist, has created cover illustrations for many of the most popular fantasy books. His work graces the covers of such writers as Terry Goodkind, David Eddings and Terry Brooks. His work also graced many of the game boxes for the once-popular online roleplaying game, Everquest.


Keith's first Sword of Truth cover

The Tangle Box is probably has my favorite cover from The Magic Kingdom of Landover series, followed closely by Witch’s Brew. The illustration is clearly Parkinson’s, featuring the smooth polished that he achieved so brilliantly with his oils.


Another great Parkinson piece

Luis Royo

There is no doubt that Luis Royo is an extremely talented artist. I only wish that the vast majority of his did not focus on scantily clad women. Call me a prude, but that’s just not the kind of fantasy I’m into. Regardless, I do like painting style, and his cover for Sara Douglas’ The Wayfarer Redemption captured my imagination and convinced me to pick the book up.


I really like the look and feel of this cover

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About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Sep 2, 2009

justBcoz says:

Another fantasy novel fan! Excellent :-)

These are stunning – I love The Fair Folk cover in particular.

I’d love to be able to illustrate like this, it’s just gorgeous.

Sep 2, 2009

Matt Ward says:

Yeah! Fantasy ROCKS! I’d love to be able to illustrate like this, too! I try to make some time to do some digital painting, but between work, more work and my family it’s hard. But since my goal is to publish my own fantasy series one day, I hope to at least get the chance to illustrate my own covers too :)

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