Historical Fiction Cover of the Month – March

Whilst February was something of a wasteland in terms of new historical fiction to peruse, March is proving to be a cracking month. Isn’t life unfair? Because there are quite a few contenders for this month’s crown and I can probably only mention some in dispatches, ignoring many which only last month might have proved world-beaters. Without exaggeration, I could have suggested about fifteen candidates this month. It’s a bugger, but hey-ho, life goes on. Here are the candidates.

First some honourable mentions, because we can’t all win first prize – in fact of course there isn’t a prize so there’s no real cause for massive disappointment. As my old mum used to say – rather too frequently with reference to me – it’s the taking part that counts. So, ‘taking part’ in no particular order [that sounds very official…] are:

Glyn Iliffe’s The Voyage of Odysseus,  Anthony Riches’ Altar of Blood, Peter Tolladay’s The Thorn in the Crown, Ben Kane’s Hunting the Eagles and C R May’s Fire and Steel.













All of these have been ‘done before’ to an extent, but they are still well put together and they make an impact whether it be with the ship’s sail, the soldier’s gleaming armour or the designs on the shields. Interestingly, it is the text of the author’s name which draws the eye in one of them [clue: there’s a ‘P’ in it…]


And so to the final two.

I’ve chosen two very contrasting covers.

First up is Janet Todd’s A Man of Genius.


What elevates this one for me is that it is a little different: it is not plastered with chunks of red, gold, silver and black – so that’s a bit of a relief. Its generally pastel shades are pleasing to the eye. The constant danger with pastel is its tendency to descend into blandness, but I think this image has enough interest to prevent that. The trick is the stark contrast of light and dark: the Venice skyline with the ships below.

And yes, [sighs] I could do without the recommendation on it, and instead, I would have liked the image itself to give me a little more information about the nature of the story, but there you go…



Now the final submission, and my pick for cover of the month, is Nick Brown’s The Emperor’s Silver. So why does it merit this lofty position?

This is actually the fifth book in the Agent of Rome series but the style of this cover differs markedly from the earlier books – and that’s a bold decision, so I like it. It still gives us the sense of action and conflict, but it does so using very few colours. The fonts are simple and the text is aligned cleverly with the image.

There is a certain balance to it all. The split image stands out against books with a similar sort of subject matter. Anything that stands out in the plethora of books now available is doing pretty well.


I’m sure many will disagree with my choices perhaps dismissing my thoughts as subjective balderdash, but I like to ring the changes a bit and I feel I’ve stayed consistent to some fundamental criteria. What criteria, you demand hopefully? That’s a question worth a post all on its own, so I’ll do it later this month, or next – depending on how the writing’s going. It’s going well at the moment and thank you for asking.

As always, I would love to have your comments on my choices or other contenders I’ve not chosen and let us hope that next month also brings forth a bumper crop of covers in this genre that we all love.



This entry was posted in Covers, Historical Fiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Historical Fiction Cover of the Month – March

  1. I agree with your choice – very striking & stark.

  2. speesh says:

    CR May, for me. The cover really made me want to get inside it – and it’s an incredibly good story that fully lives put (if not surpassing) the promise of the cover. The Ben Kane one is also very good, following the style set with the previous few, which always works well for me. The problem I have there, is the over use of the Wilbur Smith quote. I can see why the publisher would want it front and centre, however…as the great man seems to need help writing his books these days, I’m wondering if a WS recommendation still carries much weight?
    The gondola one, I’m not with you there. Not keen on that one. Nick Brown, I agree all the way, I just think the CR May one shouts ‘read me’ louder.
    Good post Derek.

  3. I like Anthony Riches cover there, but CR May’s one would be my pick. The Nick Brown one has me confused – I was looking at it thinking, “what’s the deal with the 4 lines? Is this book four in the series?” only to read your comment saying it was the fifth. So I don’t get the lines – are they just a design element? Doesn’t really do it for me, although I like the art otherwise, it could have been used better IMO.

  4. Derek Birks says:

    Hi, I think it’s just a design style.

  5. Some excellent covers and great analysis of what works, Derek.

  6. Char says:

    All nice covers! I like the design style of Brown’s cover, but my eyes are getting bad – or maybe it is the lack of sleep. I had to stare at it a while to figure out what I was seeing in the 2nd panel from the left. I think I’m just tired and have spent too many hours staring at a computer screen today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s