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The Immortals

It's Sunday and I have about nine shitsquillion things I'm meant to be doing, so naturally I have randomly revisited an old didactic project which doesn't help with any of them.

When I was about thirteen I discovered Tamora Pierce and fell in love. Her popularity isn't what it was these days which is a damn shame because with her bold, rounded female characters, her excellent world-building, her interest in diversifying the fantasy landscape, and most importantly her craft in storytelling, she is a voice badly wanted in YA fiction right now. Fans of Harry Potter looking for more high fantasy/school-type drama would do well to pick up her Song Of The Lioness quartet where a young girl disguises herself as a boy to train for her knighthood, and comes up against treacherous sorcery and bloody battle alongside Tom-Brown-esque school drama.

I love the Lioness books and the beautiful light touch and Spice Roads eel of the Circle Of Magic books, but it was The Immortals series I picked up first and they - and their earthy, diffident, powerful protagonist Daine - remain the closest to my heart. Tamora Pierce specialises in taking classic, even folkloric, fantasy story ideas and making epic-yet-grounded fantasy out of them. The Immortals is the story of a girl who has the power to communicate with - and eventually transform into - animals.

The Immortals already have some editions I'm very fond of. I love the original American jackets which I feel capture the aesthehic and tone of the books very well. And I loved the editions I read the books in, illustrated by David Wyatt, so much I bought the new edition paperbacks I didn't like, borrow the old ones I did like from the library, and swapped them around, carefully transferring all the barcodes and lending slips across).

They are suuuuper nineties though.

My interest is always grabbed by the idea of taking a book that is missing out on the market that would enjoy it, and thinking about what cover might catch the right eyes. What I'd want to communicate about The Immortals is that despite the premise this is no Disney Princess bluebirds-doing-the-washing-up stuff, but rich and detailed world- and character-building firmly grounded in well-researched detail.

One of the thing I remember finding so intriguing and pleasing about The Immortals is how the animal world is written with such authority. Daine's fantastical powers are grounded in how real animals behave and think, what they need and how their bodies work. In a genre full of automaton animals - horses that can run for hours and never need to rest, dogs that are preternaturally intelligent - Daine's tale has the satisfying ring of natural history.

So it made sense to me to reflect that tone visually by integrating collaged natural history illustrations for the cover images. I hope it would catch the right eyes - young readers who enjoyed the action and romance of something like Veronica Roth's Divergent, but were left wanting by the utter lack of convincing detail.

If you know the books you'll notice I've not included all of the series - there is in fact a fourth book which I am, for the purposes of this project, ignoring. The final book, Realms Of The Gods, not only leaves me a little cold, but also feels almost superfluous to the nigh-perfect trilogy formed by the above books. so for the purposes of this didactic design project I've made it a trilogy.

I love that each of these three books is self-contained in taking its hero and events from point A to point B while also forming a very satisfying overall story. We meet Daine in Wild Magic a frightened, grief-stricken and diffident thirteen-year old. We leave her in Emperor Mage as a powerful and self-possessed sixteen year old with a network of people who she loves and love her.

So I want a set of covers that feels cohesive but progressive in the way the books do. The unifying visual themes are the brown-paper base, the natural history illustration collage and the style in which I've painted Daine herself. What separates them is the ways I've expressed her magic on each cover.

So for Wild Magic I've used by beloved paint spatter to indicate the chaotic power spilling out of Daine). For The Emperor Mage I've used a variation on the collage theme - monochrome line drawings of prehistoric skeletons - to indicate the direction the magic takes in that books, and I've used real textures on Daine's feathery headdress. It's a very birdy book.

Wolf Speaker is clearly somewhat more in development than its neighbours, and it remains to be seen how I'll approach the depiction of magic on that cover. It is in this book that Daine starts to learn to run with the animals as well as talk to them and heal them, so perhaps some transformative quality about the figure would work. Wolf-like-eyes might be too subtle, but would neatly fit into the sequence: on the first cover, I have given Daine totally golden eyes to reflect the magic spilling out and giver her an interesting creepy quality. For The Emperor Mage she has her natural bright blue eyes to glare at us with. Yellow wolf-eyes on Wolf Speaker would be a pleasing halfway house for the middle book.


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