Art Interlude: Song of the Lioness

Just a quick post in a slightly time cramped week.  Do you have an author whose work you’d buy every edition of just to get all the various covers?  That’s me with Tamora Pierce  Especially her Song of the Lioness.  I’ve been reading these since I was ten and try to buy copies every time new covers come out.

Here’s a few of the first book in that quartet:

This is the original cover from the Atheneum 1983 hardcover.  I’ve got to get a copy of this at some point.  In the meantime, the cover is near and dear to my heart since I must have checked out the library bound edition from my local library ten to twenty times.  While the covers appear a little simplified and washed out by today’s standards,  it was really exciting at that time to realize the person on that cover was a girl!  Speaking of which–why hasn’t anyone reissued hardcover copies of this series?  I know I’d buy a set!

This  Knopf paperback reissue is the first set of covers I owned, and I think they’re still my favorite. (Though the cover of the third book leaves something to be desired.)  These covers were rich in color and detail and were my first models for trying to draw warriors.    Again, this first cover manages to create an Alanna that you might believe posed as a boy. I’ve read this set of four books to the point that I now barely touch them because they’re beginning to fall apart and I don’t want to lose this set of covers.  

I admit, this particular style of covers for the quartet never quite worked for me.  It’s just too . . . girly.   Which was probably the point when Random House Books for Young Readers put this set of covers on these books.  The horse on the cover is a romantically flowing haired horse, not a warhorse.  And it’s the first cover I encountered where Alanna isn’t holding her sword, Lightning.  It’s there, sort of hidden behind her. In fact there’s very little to indicate in this cover that this isn’t a historical horsey book.  Except for the magical glow I guess.

Admittedly this particular set of small hardcover reissues (turtleback, I think) by Simon and Schuster is a little over the top.  Lush in color, sumptuous in outfits and decoration, it goes all out in a way that the other editions do not.  But there’s something about it I found charming nonetheless.  Still, this would not be the cover selection I’d use to entice new readers to the series.    I like the fact that these are sturdy books and so I can read them without worry of wearing them out as quickly as the paperback editions.

Now this set of covers from Simon Pulse that came out in 2006 has a real sense of drama and intensity to it.  This first cover is a little strange overall, but I like the set–especially after the so many fluffier covers.  It’s perhaps my second favorite set of the bunch and has been attracting my young readers to this series the past few years..

And sigh.  This one. Atheneum’s 2010 edition which I can only guess was inspired by paranormal fantasy cover art.   Can I just say that while I get the desire to appeal to the new teen market and peg this with a decidedly more ‘Twilight’ type look, I think it betrays something of the heart of the series.  You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, of course, and I can simply hope this will encourage more readers.  But . . . this isn’t even the worst of the covers in the quartet and it’s not like you’d mistake coquettishly posed Alanna here for a boy. (Alanna is described as short and stocky to boot. And isn’t her magic purple?)  Again, the other covers are worse, IMO–but there will be plenty to disagree.

So there you have it.  A range of covers for one singular story and my opinion on them.  So what covers do you collect/love/hate?  Please comment and share!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on April 17, 2013, in General Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Great post! I’m reading more and more fantasy these days and I’m excited to find your blog. I’ll have to listen to your advice! Maybe I’ll start with this series…

  2. I just found your blog after Betsy’s shout-out at Fuse #8– so nice to see another blog focused on sci fi and fantasy for kids, and I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner.

    Viz Pierece–I have been meaning and meaning to try her, because I’ve never read a single book of hers….I need more time in my life!

  3. That 2006 cover is kind of awesome. Very intense, and conveys strong adventure where some of the others make it look like a girly horse book. I’ve been meaning to read these books for ages.

  4. I love this series and specifically the female lead. She is awesome!

  5. I’m in the “I buy everything Tamora Pierce writes” club too! I haven’t thought about collecting the covers though, great idea. I, too, have been known to selectively choose which cover I offer to which kids (same with the Susan Cooper Dark is Rising series). Nice to meet like-minded folks who bring the same love of children’s fantasy to their libraries!

  6. Karen McLachlan

    I’m now a retired school librarian, but this Song of the Lioness quartet was/is one of my very favorites both personally and professionally. The only set of covers I really like is the Knopf paperback set you say is your favorite. I think it’s the only one that captures the true essence of the series. If I had to pick the worst, I couldn’t because I dislike them all except for the original. The one from Simon Pulse really irritates me because I never saw Alanna as snarling and ugly, except when she had to be. And as for the “girly” ones, ugh! I spent most of my career in the high school, and I would never have been able to “sell” those covers.

    I also just discovered your blog via Betsy at Fuse8, and I have already recommended it to others. Keep up the excellent work!!

  7. I fell in love with this series at my high school’s library, and I’ve been trying to find places to buy it, but I really only want the Simon and Schuster turtleback issues. Sadly I can only find the new recent covers, which I don’t find as appealing, do you think there’s a place I could find them?

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