Apr 27

Ok.. don't let the dragon set us on fire, don't let the dragon set us on fire. don't let the... OH CRAP!Click for full image

NGpm Comments: This is one busy cover. Why does the dragon-saurus have a blue and red aura? Is the horse fireproof? You know this dragon’s dynamite: “look at the bones, man!” Overall the art isn’t bad, but the typography and that blurb about the Newberry is just so awkward.
Published 1986

Actually, that cover IS a classical work of art!I would touch it without protective gloves.I've seen worse. Far, far, worse.Interesting, but I would still read it in public.Middlng: Neither awful nor awfully goodWould not like to be seen reading that!Awful... just awful...That belongs in a gold-lame picture frame!Gah... my eyes are burning! Feels so good!Good Show Sir! (Average: 5.59 out of 10)

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49 Responses to “The Hero and the Crown”

  1. Claire Says:

    Yes – the horse and rider are fireproof thanks to an alchemical formula that Aerin (the heroine) has rediscovered.

  2. Ian Sales Says:

    That’s a well-known fantasy trope: the Asbestos Destrier.

  3. THX 1138 Says:

    The dragon could easily stomp them. I was thinking unless that cover scene happens at the end, it’s pretty short book.

    “The Legend of the Blue Sword Begins… and ends shortly after.”

  4. benny Says:

    This is the rare Fanta breathing dragon

  5. A.R.Yngve Says:

    “Refreshing… haunting… an utterly engrossing fantasy!”

    Want to read the FULL review quote? Of course you do:

    Refreshing cold drinks at a reasonable price were nowhere to be found in the crowded, understaffed, smelly premises of the annual Jerkwater Rennaisance Festival where I purchased this paperback from a mage wearing sunglasses.

    “With the awful recital of faux-medieval ballads haunting my memories, I beat a hasty retreat from Jerkwater RenFest and started reading the book.”

    “I wish I could tell you that it was an utterly engrossing fantasy. But clearly Mordor is running fantasy publishing these days.”

  6. SI Says:

    I’m not quite sure why this dragon breathes fire… I mean look at those claws and teeth, surely they can’t be immune from those!

  7. Evad Says:

    Maybe the dragon is just cooking them before eating.* By the look of him he could go through a whole box of frozen Knights & Mounts frozen snacks.

    *Consuming raw meat, eggs or can be hazardous to your health.

  8. Tom Noir Says:

    Dragon? That’s clearly GODZILLA!

  9. dangermom Says:

    Yep, they’re pretty fireproof–Aerin spends a lot of the novel trying to make the fireproof ointment and burning her fingers. That’s the same front cover my well-worn copy has! 馃檪

  10. fred Says:

    That’s clearly a magic sword that embiggens itself when drawn from the scabbard. Will it smoke a cigarette and then fall asleep once the dragon is slain?

  11. Phil Says:



    Oh, the Newbery medal. It’s up there with the Nobel and the Pulitzer. Funny how McKinley hasn’t picked up the latter two…

  12. A.R.Yngve Says:

    OF THE

  13. A.R.Yngve Says:

    The legend of the Blue Sword begins…

  14. Adam Roberts Says:

    [dated cultural reference] That’s what a dinosaur can do, if it eats its ready-brek! [/dated cultural reference]

  15. SI Says:

    Just realised the dragons real power… he has the amazing ability to wear a medal… with no strap! Wow…

  16. GK Says:

    WARNING: Exposure to asbestos dragon proofing ointment may cause head shrinkage in equines.

  17. Dear Prudynce Says:

    I want to see a cover with a Dragon-Swan breathing fire on a Particolored Unicorn.

  18. ebadger Says:

    Definitely not the best art, but also a lesson in learning about the book before commenting on a classic. Yes, as mentioned, the horse and rider are pretty fireproof (and are caught in a direct blast of flame). Also, yes, the dragon does have a red aura. Blue is probably an allusion to the rider’s aura later in the book. The dragon is pretty dynamite as well…nearly brings down a kingdom AFTER being killed, which trumps most other lizards. I’ll leave you the font, as those seem to be your thing anyways (would love an example of an acceptable font for you, though….)

  19. NGpm Says:

    Okay, point taken. Having read more, it appears that some of the imagery of the cover is appropriate. Not exactly like I would imagine it, but then I’m not paid to paint covers.
    The comments are reserved for the cover not the content. Some of my favorite books have at best mediocre covers.
    While the font itself isn’t bad, it’s just so overwhelming. It’s the awkwardness of the thing that prompted submission; not all submissions are seeking the worst cover ever award 馃檪

  20. Dalton H. Says:

    Dragon has a nub-nub leg. Nub-nub.

  21. GSS ex-noob Says:

    The horse may be fireproof, but he doesn’t look happy anyway. (Perhaps because of his tiny head) Is he pointy fangy teeth and giant claw proof? No? Then there’s still a big problem.

    That sword better be concealing a rocket launcher or dragon there is just going to eat a cold lunch. Perhaps it’s in the middle of extending further than it already has, in some magickal fashion with absolutely nowt to do with the artist drawing the sword too big for the scabbard.

    The wordy stuff at the top confuses me. Author is credited as writing “The Blue Sword”, yet this is purportedly “legend begins”. And we’d have been able to see the top of dragon’s head if it didn’t have 7 lines of text in 3-4 different fonts.

    Am not sure if the Newbery shuriken would have been better or worse in a color different from that of the flame.

  22. B. Chiclitz Says:

    He’d be better able to flee if the saddle had stirrups.

  23. B. Chiclitz Says:

    Be5: Dragon takes Knight!

  24. fred Says:

    And now a few more words from Academia after you look at the pretty colors. Only the first 2 pages, but with the immortal phrase ‘welding brass tits on the armor’, which should become a tag name.

  25. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    fred’s link, useful on its own merits, raises an issue of aesthetics that’s been on my mind this week. Richard Wollheim talked about art as a medium of communication, specifically of emotion [1]. One of his contributions was the idea of the artist as a successful communicator, i.e., one must have not only talent but be able to use it to inspire and share with the audience.

    Compare today’s work with the one that we had earlier this week, Heroing. In both cases, you have an author who has something to say about women challenging the classical male hero archetype. In the latter, the author is male, while in the former the author is female. I would argue that it’s not the inherent difference in gender that makes the difference. Instead, it’s the unconscious experiences and world view of the two authors that contribute to the effective world building of McKinley, and the less fantastical but also less encompassing work of abHugh.

    [1] Wollheim wasn’t the first, of course, but I’m best acquainted with his work as a result of taking his class while I was at university.

    Obligatory cover remark: Draco’s jaw appears to drop vertically rather than swing in an arc. If you want to paint a proper dragon, Kinuko-san, you need a proper jaw joint along with it!

  26. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @DeadSWBT鈥擸our comment is provocative of thought, so, even though it is not, strictly speaking, within the GSS purview to indulge in too deep a reflection, I am wondering if it might not simply come down to McKinley being more talented (in your terms, a better communicator) than abHugh? The rest, i.e. author’s gender, world-view, personal life experience, etc. might simply be a red herring. While we usually assume that writers write what they know about, the power of the imagination is infinite and the creative process poorly understood; authors often write the most “realistic” narratives about things they never have or could personally experience (sort of a given with fantasy and sci-fi, no?). Re-reading your comment, I think perhaps we are in basic agreement on this point.

  27. Tat Wood Says:

    @B.Chicltiz, Dead Stuff: Without dragging this argument out too much, I think Ursula le Guin got it right (again) when she said that it’s less ‘write what you know’ than ‘know what you write’. If I read yet another book about a nerdy librarian who’s transported into a realm of High Fantasy I want some acknowledgement, from personal experience, that learning to ride a horse as an adult, especially a man, is painful, that broadswords weigh a ton and you exhaust your opponent rather than doing Errol Flynn moves, etc etc. Translating mystic runes ought to be harder than learning Italian. Internal cohesion in the invented stuff ought to be leavened (that word again) by a bit of first-hand, real world investigation, not copying it from other novels.

    This goes double for cover-art. Specifically, when do you ever see a horse built like that manage that pose? It’s rearing up like a thoroughbred but it has the proportions of a Shetland pony (at least in the rear – the front legs are way too long and riding it in armour would mean you’d only see the sky).Its centre of gravity would be way off for that.

  28. Bibliomancer Says:

    @BC #23 – Looks like the knight is forked!

  29. Anna T. Says:

    I have this book, and it’s good. The cover is, as has been stated above, a (reasonably) accurate scene from the first third of the book. Only, there’s one thing they didn’t add: the horse only has three legs.

    And, of course, Aerin’s fireproof armour obviously does not have short sleeves, because that would be a major liability, but who’s counting?

  30. fred Says:

    Shouldn’t whatever is coming out of the nostrils be going in the same direction as the breath?

  31. Tor Mented Says:

    Come on baby, light my fire.
    Come on baby, light my fire.
    Try to set the knight on fire.

  32. B. Chiclitz Says:

    @Tor Mented鈥擝ravissimo!馃槑

  33. B. Chiclitz Says:

    I just realized that this book is actually about a guy who breaks a tooth biting into a big sandwich. Took me a while . . . .

  34. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @BC: We could eat heroes. Just for one taste…

  35. Tor Mented Says:

    We don鈥檛 eat another hero.
    We don鈥檛 need to know the way home.
    All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome.

  36. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @B. Chiclitz: that exact same scenario led to one of my dental adventures. Also, I figured out what the saddle reminds me of; the ones that are set into the hollow back of Lego horses, where you pop the minifig into them.

    So that’s a girl on the cover? Doesn’t look like one. And no brass tits.

  37. Tag Wizard Says:

    It’s theme week. Doesn’t anyone want to comment on that?

  38. Tat Wood Says:

    @Tag Wizard: I was holding out till the morning light.

  39. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @TW: I was waiting for Tat Wood to say something.

  40. THX 1138 Says:

    @TW: Yata!

  41. StevenLP Says:

    Just spent five minutes trying to exhale through my nose and mouth at the same time. Can’t do it; but the dragon can. Maybe it’s a lizard thing. Maybe it’s five minutes of my life wasted.

  42. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @Steven: you’ll observe that’s steam coming out of Draco’s nose. It’s just a natural response to the difference in temperature and pressure.

  43. StevenLP Says:

    @DSWBT: But my experiments – and I’ve just tried again with one hand below my nose and the other in front of my mouth to check for breath – suggest simultaneous exhalation is not possible (and the steam or smoke is clearly being expelled under pressure from the nostrils); though I accept the biology of humans and fictional dragons may differ.

  44. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @Steven: have you considered setting your upper throat on fire? I think that’s a variable so far uncontrolled.

  45. StevenLP Says:

    I have considered it, but held back from doing so, as I worry it would severely hamper my yodelling career.

  46. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @Steven: ah, that dimension to your diaphragming hadn’t even danced through my mind!

  47. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @Tat, THX: bravo, sirs.

    I’ve just hyperventilated trying to replicate Steven’s experiment, so have no data to submit there. I suspect he’s right; but as detailed as this cover is, the artist didn’t let us know the interior anatomy of Draco. So we’ll never know.

    Back on the serious discussion above, I think too many SF and especially fantasy books fall into the trap of “The Third Artist” as explicated in a swell 1996 essay by author Heather Rose Jones. It’s online somewhere but I can’t find it. Briefly: the first artist paints from life, the third artist grows up in the art museum built by the second one to honor the first one and is therefore derivative as all get-out. Heather also writes swashbuckling lesbians.

    An example thereof, here’s another in the endless series of “self-published, self-illustrated, self-fonted”:
    The first sentence of the description made me laugh, not in a good way.

  48. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @GSS ex-pectin: doesn’t “preserves” refer to jams and jellies in the context of peanut butter?

  49. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @DSWBAppetite: Yup. He’s a-puttin’ ’em up in gramma’s ol’ Bell Jars in a sugar syrup. But preserves are chunky, retaining the original texture. Might could do without the pectin, though.

    I think I’d stick with classic Concord grape jelly to go with my peanut butter, though. But I suppose you have to work with the local, seasonal resources you have on hand. The third sentence indicates he’s using what’s ending up on his property.

    I made some very nice organic blackberry preserves last summer from a pound of overripe sale fruit.

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