Judging Before Reading: Covers I Don’t Like

Today I’m starting a new series of posts, “Judging Before Reading”, in which I explain what makes me add a book to my TBR. In these posts I’ll talk about covers I like and don’t like, what are my buzzwords, and what will probably make me decide I don’t even want to give a chance to a certain book.

This is a post about covers I don’t like.

On Judging Books By Their Covers

I tend to do that. I think we all judge books by their cover to a degree, but I’m aware that I’m far more likely to add a book if I like the cover. However, if the premise sounds really interesting and/or I like the author, the cover won’t matter – I’m shallow, yes, but not that much.

Here are some cover trends and mistakes I’d love to never see again, anyway.


I get it, you’re a generic YA high fantasy book. But shouldn’t the cover try to convince me otherwise?
Red Queen is the only YA book who got this right, but after it became popular,  “a fake-looking crown on a boring background” was suddenly a trend – a really boring one. Ash Princess tries at least to make the crown look interesting, but this cover still looks very generic to me. Four Dead Queens tries to bring something new with the position of the crowns, but the illustration isn’t good enough to avoid the “deformed crustaceans” look. And lastly, Three Dark Crowns is undeniably one of the most boring covers in the YA age range. (But it can get worse! Just look at how ugly One Dark Throne is.)

The thing about crown covers is that they make me think the book is a high fantasy I’ve already read too many times, with a bland m/f romance, a vague dystopian feel because there always needs to be a rebellion, and an even vaguer worldbuilding. I know I’m less likely to add a book if there’s a crown on the cover.

Tacky Round Things

This is so Divergent-era dystopian. I’d love if YA grew out of it the way it grew out of its fake dystopian romance phase four years ago. This theme isn’t as generic-looking as the crown on a dull background, but I can’t say it is much better. Seafire isn’t ugly, but I think it could have taken the compass rose theme in a much more interesting direction. Defy the Stars looks boring but has a nice color scheme, and The Last Magician is saved only by the fact that there are snake skeletons and you can’t go too wrong with snake skeletons (it almost manages to be boring anyway, though).

Unlike crowns, this kind of covers isn’t limited to a specific genre (Seafire is pirate fantasy, Defy the Stars is a romance in space, The Last Magician is a time travel story) but to me it looks dull and overused. It carries that “YA book you’ve already read before” feeling, and I know I’m less likely to add a book with this kind of cover to my TBR.

Did You Mean It or Was It A Mistake

This is a vague title, but sometimes I see a cover and wonder whether that was the intended effect. Like, I’m pretty sure the US cover of The Kingdom of Copper wasn’t meant to look like someone was just abducted by aliens, but because of the unfortunate placement of the dome and the light, it does. The Belles is a great idea ruined by the fact that the cover model is out of focus in her own cover (why?! The cover of The Everlasting Rose, however, doesn’t have this problem and it’s gorgeous). And Not Even Bones is a remarkable example of boring. Look at the most fake-looking blood drops ever. Look at the empty space and tell me if that’s not wasted potential. It looks so sad.

Covers with a good concept and a mediocre or terrible execution don’t make me less likely to add the book (I loved The City of Brass and of course I’m not going to miss the sequel because of the alien abduction), they just make me sad. They could have been so much better, and to this day I kind of want to remove Not Even Bones even though I know I’ll probably love what’s on the inside.

I’m Trying to Be Throne of Glass

I didn’t like Throne of Glass. So…
I actually don’t think Ship of Smoke and Steel is a terrible cover – it looks interesting, and the ghost-like appearance of the girl makes more sense here than it does in Throne of Glass, because this story involves ghosts – but, like the new Flamecaster cover, it looks very generic. “I have long swords and a wonderful tight gap” generic.
The new cover of The Winner’s Crime is also trying to be Throne of Glass, but in another way. Instead of copying the cover of the first book, it’s a shameless copycat of The Assassin’s Blade. The old covers were better.

It’s kind of like using Throne of Glass as a comp title. I’m going to hope it’s misleading marketing and read the book anyway if I find it interesting, but I can’t say it’s encouraging.

Faceless Bodies

People on covers aren’t necessarily a negative thing for me – there are some covers that get it right, like the aforementioned The Everlasting Rose – but faceless bodies are always ugly. It’s mostly a romance problem, but sometimes I also find SFF books like that. Palimpsest is an example of an off-putting book I would never have bought if it hadn’t been written by one of my favorite authors; Syncopation is remarkably ugly even for a romance book, and Chord is… an armpit. Why did that happen, I don’t get it.
I’d read a lot more romance if it covers weren’t so often either half-naked faceless people or models almost kissing.

Even if these books end up being favorites, I won’t buy a physical copy, because I don’t need or want ugly half-naked people or armpits on my shelves.

What are some book cover trends you don’t like? What do you think of these? Have you ever read a really good book that didn’t deserve the (not really good) cover?


34 thoughts on “Judging Before Reading: Covers I Don’t Like

  1. This is such a fun post. I agree with you on all of these. And ugly cover can really put me off reading a book. Case in point the belles, which has probably the ugliest cover I’ve ever seen, that font is so bad, I have no words for how much I hate it. Anyway most of these just make me think of that “graphic design is my passion” meme.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t think of the meme while writing this, but you’re right.
      I liked the idea of The Belles – I think it’s one of the few books with the “girl in a dress cover” in which having a girl in a dress on the cover makes sense – but the out-of-focus model, the ugly font and the blatantly photoshopped flowers in the girl’s hair ruined everything.


  2. Yes, all the Throne of Glass rip-offs! And I don’t even like the Throne of Glass cover in the first place! I only read the first book, but I read it when it had more of a “girl in a pretty dress” cover and I thought that was way more accurate! The protagonist is really not at all badass in the first book.

    I also hate the round symbol things. What are they? I have no idea.

    I’m kind of into the Four Dead Queens cover just because the jumble of discarded crowns is kind of evocative, but I agree the just one crown on the cover thing is not very interesting. I also hated the Ash Princess cover and almost didn’t get it out from the library because of the boring cover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The first Throne of Glass cover is definitely more accurate (and the model also looks like the author… they didn’t even try to hide that ToG was a self-insert fantasy).
      The round symbol thing just looks lazy to me. I don’t think I would care about it if I hadn’t seen that kind of cover so many times. Same thing for crowns – Four Dead Queens is probably the best cover out of those three, but they just look boring to me now.


  3. The Belles one bothers me SO MUCH. One of my friends went out of her way to order me a lovely copy, and when it arrives I genuinely though there had been a printing error because the cover is all blurred? But no… that’s just the effect they were apparently going for and it makes an otherwise beautiful cover very unappealing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same. When that cover was revealed I thought the image wasn’t loading properly/that there was something wrong with my screen, but no, it’s just blurry. I don’t think it was intentional, though – the cover of The Everlasting Rose is kind of faded but doesn’t look blurred. To me it looks like a mistake brought by publishing deadlines.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh I love the idea for the series! And I DEFINITELY thought “aliens” when I first saw the Kingdom of Copper cover too. I like the colour scheme and all, but they kind of overdid it with the blue light. I’m actually not too bothered by crown covers–I like the simple aesthetic but there have been a *lot* of them lately and they do really scream “generic.”

    And speaking of half-naked people, here’s one of my least favourite covers ever: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71bEvm1i2wL.jpg
    I mean, the guy looks like he’s wearing bad cosplay wings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there will be water magic in The Kingdom of Copper, so the symbolism makes sense, but that doesn’t look as much as a waterfall as it should.

      …that cover. Ouch. Are those wings or is that a misshapen curtain? Also that cover screams self-published paranormal romance (I’m sure that if I looked specifically for shifter romances I would find some gems) but it’s not. It’s from a fantasy imprint of Penguin. How.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, I hate the cover of Not Even Bones so much! It seems to go with what’s inside, from what I’ve heard, but it looks so amateur and cheap and honestly kind of boring despite the bloody knife.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ugh, I agree so hard. The crown covers always make me think it’s the same book. I get that it’s hard to come up with new and innovative cover designs for every book that comes out — things will overlap — but I straight-up glossed over a lot of the titles because I thought it was the same book I was seeing over and over again.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is such a good idea for a series and this post is hilarious! I agree so hard on all of these. I didn’t even realize I’ve been subconsciously avoiding “tacky round things” and crowns for the exact same reasons as you until now. They just scream you’ve already this story and found it mediocre – but want to try it again? Not Even Bones is the worst cover I’ve seen all year, I can’t make myself take it seriously. It looks a poster for a crime show that’ll be cancelled after 4 episodes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! When the cover of Not Even Bones was revealed I was really disappointed, I had (and still have) high hopes for the book itself, but that just looks… yes, like a subpar crime show. I don’t understand what happened.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is HILARIOUS. I 100% agree with you regarding the “Tacky Round Things” category. I think that’s my least favorite cover design. There’s something so lazy and generic about it and it’s become a trend for some reason and it’s awful!

    Re: The Kingdom of Copper, that was actually a cover that had me tearing up the first time I saw it because I thought it was beautiful, but now that you’ve pointed out the alien abduction thing I can’t unsee it lmao!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Tacky Round Things became a trend because they’re difficult to get wrong. None of these cover are remarkably ugly, they’re just… lazy and generic, like you said.

      I liked the idea of The Kingdom of Copper’s cover (I think it and book one’s look really good together and I like the elemental theme), but the alien abduction was the first thing I though of when I saw it

      And I’m glad you liked reading this!

      Liked by 1 person

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