Back in May, we got one of the few pieces of good news that 2020 has to offer: the Graceling Realm series isn’t over. A new book is going to be released in early 2021, called Winterkeep. You can find all of the initial information in my blog post, plus some of my expectations for the new books, here–> Winterkeep: Publication Info and Personal Expectations.
Ever since then, I have been waiting for Cashore to drop the book covers, and it finally happened. Even better, Cashore promised a launch of revamped covers of the original three books. I have two separate book cover collections to share, however, because back in August she dropped the beautiful UK/New Zealand/Australia covers.
To be honest, I am so jealous for the people living in those areas because wow. They all incorporate some of the major elements of the original covers–the knife, the arrow, the key–but also add to the world-building of the story itself. I could see how the bird might be the sigil of Brigan’s royal family, and maybe the flower refers to Raffin’s scientific experiments? I don’t know. But the colors and the actual subject matter and even the font are absolutely stunning. It was certainly enough to hold me over until the US editions were revealed.
And boy oh boy were they worth it. I think if I had to compare it to anything, the new covers look almost like something you’d find as a cover of a graphic novel. Everything about it from the colors to the character depictions to the very art style were just stunning. My least favorite, honestly, is Graceling’s, because the color doesn’t feel quite as vibrant as the others, and Katsa looks like an elf-figure hiding in the woods. Still, while I love my current copies of the Graceling Realm books, and while I think the originals do capture the essence of their stories well, I have never loved their covers, and these are most certainly a step up. (Not to speak poorly of the original artist. Just… these are definitely more my style.)
What I love, love, love from a good book cover is when certain elements bleed into the forms of another. Six of Crows? The feathers turning into the outlines of a building? I’m here for that. So to see something similar happening with these covers just makes my heart happy. The Bitterblue cover doesn’t have the keys of the original, but honestly? It’s very reminiscent of those many scenes in which she left her crown and her queenly identity behind to travel the streets of her city. I also cannot explain how happy I was to see the fact that Fire was depicted as dark-skinned on these new covers, where the original US covers definitely made her look pale.
The cover of Winterkeep tells us little about the story that we didn’t already know. I am curious about the blue fox motif. There are telepathic foxes in the country of Winterkeep, and since they are magical, perhaps we are also supposed to envision them as blue. That remains to be seen, I suppose. Cashore tweeted that the girl on the cover of the book was Lovisa Cavenda, a girl from Winterkeep, and she said in BookPage’s article that most people of that country have darker skin and eyes.
If you think that’s all we have to talk about, however, you are fortunately mistaken! The aforementioned article has a short interview with Kristin Cashore herself, if you’re interested in reading it, but it also includes an excerpt of the first chapter, and there are already a few things to unpack. In my initial Winterkeep publication info post, I made a short list of some things I hoped to see in the book, and already, some of those things are addressed. You might want to read the excerpt first, then come back to this post.
The Council work continues. I had hoped to see some of the aftermath of all these rebellions Katsa, Po, and Giddon had been starting in Bitterblue, and within the first few paragraphs, that’s exactly what we get. The republic of Estill is hardly less corrupt than the monarchy that had come before it, and though the Council helped prop them up, they’re already undermining their rule by helping the Gracelings of that kingdom escape into Monsea.
Giddon and Bitterblue aren’t a thing (yet?). The Graceling that Giddon is helping is a young mind-reader. Giddon has been lying to most of the people he helps, saying that he has a girlfriend he is devoted to, in the hopes of discouraging any unwanted romantic attention. The mind-reader confirms what the reader assumes, that the girlfriend is indeed fictional. But, also, we see Giddon cares about Bitterblue’s feelings, saying that she had blamed herself for the drowned Monseans because she was the one that had sent them on that mission to Winterkeep, and the news that one of his travel companions has will mean he has to bring it back up to Bitterblue, who he fears will grow upset again.
But Raffin and Bann grow more open with their relationship. Raffin is still prince, but the man who brought Giddon the message very clearly knows about Raffin and Bann being a couple despite the fact that he is a character we’ve never been introduced to before. He says his message came from Bann and called him Raffin’s consort. That’s just so cute and wholesome. I can’t imagine Randa’s happy about that, but no one ever cared what Randa thinks.
Seeing Bitterblue from another person’s perspective. One of the more humorous things about Bitterblue was getting to see Katsa from an outside perspective. We knew Katsa liked to run her horses into the ground, that she couldn’t sit still, that she loved her friends passionately but she loved Po even more. To see her run literally everywhere in Bitterblue’s castle, how she crashed into Po when they had their little reunion in Monsea, and how she reacted to the various news that Bitterblue had for her, was always funny compared to the way she saw herself in her own book. So now we see Bitterblue from Giddon’s point of view, and I guess it’s not surprising that he sees her as emotionally sensitive, especially since it’s not written like he looks down on her for it, but I truly do hope that through the book we’ll also get to see how those around Bitterblue think her strong. She herself did not believe it, not until Fire helped her see at the end, but Bitterblue truly is one of my favorite characters because of her strength.
I am so excited for January, when I can get my hands on all four books (because I absolutely have to have the new editions). Let me know in the comments if you’re as excited as I am, or what you think of the new covers, or how you felt reading the excerpt, if you did.