Hirad forced to admit that Swanland has got it absolutely right

James Barclay is the author of the CHRONICLES OF THE RAVEN and the LEGENDS OF THE RAVEN series, which have sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The Raven saga came to a conclusion with the stunning RAVENSOUL. He also penned the epic fantasy duology The Ascendants of Estorea and has written two novellas. He is currently at work on his Elves trilogy, which began with ELVES: ONE WALKED WITH THE GODS.

Here,  James talks about the exciting new covers for the Raven saga. All seven books have had new artwork. The CHRONICLES OF THE RAVEN series will be reissued on 23rd August, and the LEGENDS OF THE RAVEN  will be out in April next year.

The Raven don’t know how lucky they are. Yes, they spend their time locked in desperate situations barely escaping with their lives (or not) but on the outside (which they can’t see, admittedly) they have been graced by some high quality covers. Now whether Hirad Coldheart would do anything other than shrug his shoulders at his depiction on the outside of a Raven novel is open to debate… actually, it’s not open to debate. He wouldn’t even shrug his shoulders because that would infer he’d looked at the cover in the first place.

His loss because we started out with the exceptional Fred Gambino, whose painting for the 1999 Dawnthief hangs on my office wall and which I will always cherish. There’s no love like your first love. Fred painted four covers in the end. Thank you, Fred.

Then, and to the chagrin of collectors, we moved to the universally popular two-colour silhouette covers before the Fred paintings of the whole series were done. Hirad, having been forced to view the covers, would have treated their creator to one of his bleaker looks, I’m sure. I loved them. They added a new dimension to a fantasy book cover and looked damn good on the bookshelves – always a good thing.

The third iteration was classic weapon imagery and extremely well done. So well done, in fact, that it was picked up and used by my US publisher. I suspect Hirad would have grunted and made some comment about the lack of gore on the blades or something and muttered about the grip leather and such like but that’s because he has no idea of the aesthetic aim. Indeed, ‘aesthetic’ is among the three words Hirad is most unlikely ever to say.

And now? Oh boy. There are moments of giddy excitement in any author’s career and when I heard that Raymond Swanland was going to paint a new set of jackets, that was certainly one of mine. Raymond is a fantastic artist, in great demand and rightly renowned for a unique style that imbues his art with fantastic detail, movement and emotion. And for The Raven covers, he did not disappoint. In fact he exceeded all expectations, leaving them grovelling in the dirt, wailing about their lack of worthiness.

You see, Raymond reads the books for which he paints the covers. Not just a few pages but all of them. That means he selects the right character to highlight, someone pivotal at a pivotal moment. The character and emotion in the face adds such depth, and their action such pace. It is exciting and invigorating and all seven Raven novels are to be adorned with such jewellery.

These are the best covers The Raven series has seen. And in Ravensoul (for which you must wait awhile I fear) the best cover I have ever seen on any book of mine or anyone else’s for that matter. And what would Hirad think? Well, I suspect there would be a slight nod of appreciation and a grunt of approval.

And that, Raymond, is the very highest of praise.