The Cover Wars: Historical Fiction (New Releases)

This time from Goodreads’ new releases section for historical fiction. As always, remember to click through to read the summaries (which almost always reveals more than the covers) and feel free to comment or tweet your own opinions. Cheers.


1. The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer


Janet: I’m well over the “[occupation/person]’s [secret/mystery/wife]” kind of title (the Hardy Boys kind of killed that style for me), but setting that aside, the contraption on the cover is appealingly imperfect. With the copper, the tarnished edges, and lack of polished silver, tt couldn’t have been made in the Panem Capitol (hooray!); and the mixture of dragonfly, blades, sheaths, and ?mini-rocket? is eye-catching. The tacky all-caps in the tagline detracts from the curious mechanical device that is supposed to hold center stage and undercuts its own paradoxical message; however, if I hear good things about this book I might read it.

Yash: You know, I am over books that have titles like, “[occupation of person]’s wife” because, I mean, the wife doesn’t get a title except as someone who belongs to her husband. (And no, I do not think anyone has published a book where the wife belongs to her wife/partner- because that I would have read.)  I like this, though. In a way, I like it because of the reasons Janet is over it- either the girl protagonist (I assume) is the inventor, or she is the Nancy Drew/Veronica Mars character who will snoop and creep until she gets to the bottom of things. I also like the steampunk-y art- which might explain why the contraption is imperfect? Because steampunk doesn’t make scientific sense all the time? Maybe I am making excuses for a cover that I liked on instinct. *shrug* In any case, I would read.

Nafiza: I liked the previous cover of this better – it was a mechanical heart and I had this whole story in my heart about a girl who invented a mechanical heart that kept people alive for far longer than they ought to be. Still. I may like this one cuz the dragonfly sort of looks like a pen and I like pens. I don’t much like the explosion thing happening at the bottom of the cover. Also, that’s an interesting tag line. Would I offer my life for freedom? But what is freedom if I am not around to enjoy it? There is no good answer to that question. Bah.

2. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin


Janet: The old photograph look in the bottom third of this cover effectively establishes the era and a sense of place. The top half is more generic and I don’t care for it (also, the pearl necklace appears to be rising on her throat as it chokes her); however, the texture and style of the coat is almost tangible, which grounds the individual portrait convincingly, rendering the half-face style of art ever so slightly more acceptable. (I still do not approve, though.)

Yash: I have to agree with Janet. Don’t like the top half (though I think it suits the cover) and I like the photograph in the bottom. I can see, however, why the publisher chose to do this. It tells me it’s YA, but also based on historical fact. I might read the back. Maybe wait for a thumbs up from Megan?

Nafiza: I have a sneaky suspicion that the pearl necklace was photoshopped in and I don’t understand why. Still. I don’t know how I feel about this cover. I don’t hate it but I think it is going for two different things so I don’t know what to think and since I’ve spent the entire day working on thesis, my brain refuses to work anymore. I wouldn’t pick this up in the bookstore is what I’m going to say.

3. The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel


Janet: Ha, funny that this should crop up here after the lovely launch (with Ken Oppel!) at Kidsbooks last week. I like the key and the spike (although, factually speaking, the heads of railway spikes are not that even, especially after they’ve been hammered once; the one on the cover looks more like a golf tee than an actual spike, but even so, the use of artifacts important to the plot in place of the usual swirls is a nice touch). I do find it funny that after Oppel talked about how narrow the paths on the top of cars were, and even showed a photo of historical cars, this cover has a luxuriously wide path for Will and Maren to run across. However, the sense of journey, possibility, and looming threat is nicely done, and I like the colour scheme.

Yash: *giggle* Yes, this was a completely random happenstance. I am very good at this. Yup. I AM SO GONNA READ THIS. And honestly, I know that I would have been drawn to the cover even without knowing who the book is by. Trains are awesome. Blue, black, and yellow as a theme is awesome. AND I love the two kids (?) caught in action.It’s brilliant. If I happen to learn some half-truths about Canadian history, so be it!

Nafiza: I really like this. I love covers that capture scenes and people in motion. And that it is illustrated is just icing on the cake. I like the colours and I like the trees and the typography. Yep, give this to me.

4. All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu


Janet: Why is the title crossed out? If the setting is school (I’m not going to go read the summary, because that will prejudice me one way or another) then the use of blackboard and chalk is suitable. Still, “All Our Names” is not something you would usually find written on a chalkboard, crossed out or otherwise. The back cover would have to be descriptive and specific, because the front cover tells me almost nothing.

Yash:love the cover. I think my imagination went on overdrive when I saw this under historical fiction because let’s face it, history has a tendency to bury some names and celebrate others. Also, what if this is a story based on historical (or contemporary) genocides? It would make sense that the names are crossed out from existence. Or what if it’s about a historical serial killer with a list?! OR! OR! It could be someone who fakes their death to escape some antagonists and reunite with their one true love in secret?! THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS! I embrace this cover as a soul sister. I would read the back. But now that I’ve kind of hyped up this cover to myself … I am worried that it won’t be about any of my fabulous hypotheses …

Nafiza: I like this. It could be about genocide, as Yash says. I was also reading about colonialism the other day (the things I do for fun) and I read how colonizers insisted on giving First Nations people new names and how this led to identity loss especially among children who were suddenly cast adrift. So yeah, this cover is powerful. And I disagree with  Janet. The sparsity works for me.

5. Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner


Janet: From the title and cover, I would hazard a guess that this is about the imprisonment of Japanese-American in internment camps during World War Two. Assuming I am right, the cover is suitably symbolic, with the Japanese plane and ship, the sun, the bridge (San Francisco?), and although I’m not running out to buy this, I wouldn’t need much persuasion from a friend to read it. The use of colour is fabulous.

Yash: I love the blue and yellow contrast. It reminds me of Van Gogh. I like the kid on the bridge- neither here nor there. I like the sun that shines on everything- but he isn’t facing it. Of course, the title also adds to my suspicion that it may actually hurt to read this one. I will have to put it in my list. For whenever I can next read something that breaks my heart.

Nafiza: I love this. Seriously. I want it on my shelf.

6. A Matter of Souls by Denise Lewis Patrick


Janet: I can’t wait to read what Steph has to say about the camera glare lights! This looks vaguely like a forest, albeit one illuminated by yellow spots of light. The title leaves me feeling uneasy: I can’t tell if it is fitting or a lie, whether the book deals with deep subjects and profound questions, or if “souls” is actually an euphemism for “beating hearts because the protagonist is so madly in love.” I would have to look at the back, and scan a page or two of the inside to know.

Yash: You know this cover annoyed me so much that I ended up looking up what the book was actually about:

From the shores of Africa to the bowels of a transatlantic ship to a voting booth in Mississippi to the jungles of Vietnam, all human connection is a matter of souls. In this stirring collection of short stories, Denise Lewis Patrick considers the souls of black men and women across centuries and continents. In each, she takes the measure of their dignity, describes their dreams, and catalogs their fears. Brutality, beauty, laughter, rage, and love all take their turns in each story, but the final impression is of indomitable, luminous, and connected souls.

And then I was still disappointed by the cover- but in a different way. They could have gone very many ways with a story like this. I think there is something to be said about the lack of visibility of racial “minorities” on book covers and the decision to put them on a cover or not put them on a cover is becoming one of the things I spend way too much time thinking about. Maybe I am wrong to, though. Maybe though the lights have something to do with the story? (The souls are described as “luminous”.) Maybe this is what the writer wanted? Anyway, knowing what I know about the book, I would want to read it- despite the cover!

Nafiza: This cover makes my head hurts. My eyes keep trying to focus the lights into some sort of recognizable image and keeps failing. I would want to read this though from the synopsis Yash posted.

3 responses to “The Cover Wars: Historical Fiction (New Releases)

  1. Wow, that cover for The Boundless. I love it. I also love the excerpt on the Chapters website. I need to read it!

  2. Pingback: The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer | The Book Wars·

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