Urban fantasy has been a popular genre for decades, and its cover art has evolved alongside it. From the early days of the genre to the present day, urban fantasy book covers have reflected changing reader tastes and trends. In this article, we’ll examine the different eras of urban fantasy book covers, and explore how they’ve changed over time.
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Early Urban Fantasy Book Covers
In the early days of urban fantasy, book covers often emphasized the “fantasy” aspect of the genre. Covers were often illustrated with fantastical creatures and landscapes, such as dragons, unicorns, and enchanted forests. They also tended to have a more whimsical and colorful feel, which reflected the lighter tone of many early urban fantasy novels. Examples of books from this era include Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series.
The Rise of Dark Urban Fantasy
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a new subgenre of urban fantasy emerged: dark urban fantasy. These books often had a more mature and gritty tone, and their covers reflected that. Examples of books from this era include Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. Many of these older series have since been recovered with fresh book covers, which is a great way to keep older books relevant.
The Twilight Effect
In the mid-2000s, the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer became a massive hit, and its influence was felt across the entire urban fantasy genre. The covers of Twilight and its sequels featured a simple yet iconic design: a pair of hands holding an apple, with a black background. This design was imitated by many other urban fantasy book covers in the years that followed, leading to a trend of minimalist covers featuring a single central image. Examples of books from this era include Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series and Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver series.
Modern Urban Fantasy Book Covers
In recent years, urban fantasy book covers have become more diverse and experimental, showcasing the genre’s evolution.
The most popular trend remains the depiction of action heroines, like Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. These heroines are often shown in action, poised for battle, and exude strength and empowerment. Another trend is the use of glowing backgrounds, as seen in Linsey Hall’s Dragon’s Gift and Urban Mystic series, where the heroines are often shown with magical energy emanating from their bodies, or in their hands.
After several years of female action heroes dominating covers a new symbol cover trend has emerged, popularized by Shannon Mayer’s The Rylee Adamson Novels and The Elemental Series. These covers may feature a central symbol or object that represents a key element or theme from the story, however the covers tend to be far more intricate than the old Twilight minimalist covers.
As the urban fantasy genre continues to grow and change, its cover art reflects its evolution. From action heroines to glowing backgrounds and symbol covers, modern urban fantasy book covers showcase the diversity and experimentation of the genre. It is important for authors to regularly examine the bestselling covers in their genre as trends change over time.