This was the third year for our Avant Garde category and I was pleased with the quality of the ten finalists. AV is the category created for covers not meeting our romance HEA guidelines, covers on the cutting edge of design, and covers with unique spins on current trends. Our Contemporary and Historical categories are reserved for romance in honor of the contest's original purpose but Avant Garde can showcase covers from any genre. There were a variety of outside of the box layouts, including a heroine falling through the floor, a would-be Wendy fighting her Peter Pan destiny, and several eye-catching pops of the color red. It was a very good year for Avant Garde, with the top four finishers sharing almost 60% of the votes, with only 7% separating the first and fourth place finishers.
Jacket Illustration: Manuel Sumberac (Clarion Books)
In first place was Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell. This cover was most commonly described as beautiful and unusual, with several mentions of the color scheme. Kristie J. mentioned that, "It looks like it could be a poster of a quirky Tim Burton movie and I just find it very intriguing. It's a bit whimsical and a bit dark which makes for a most interesting cover." Personally, I enjoyed the dragonflies hovering near the girl, the gear elements in the tree, and especially the font choice for the title.
Katie M. captured what makes this cover truly avant garde: "Enchanting nature and machinery together, blends in a magical, eye-catching way."
Amy made a good point, in that many AV covers tend to be somewhat dark: "I like that it looks more hopeful than some of the others and also I like the pink sky with the moon."
Elizabeth summed it up nicely: "There are so many fantastic covers in this category! But I kept coming back to Mechanica. I love the color scheme, the detail, the sense of magic. That's definitely a story I want to know more about."
Coming in second was Frostfire by Amanda Hocking. I was immediately drawn in by the pop of red in the girl's coat and the title font, and also enjoyed the whimsical element of the rabbit over the letter "O".
The red color was a common element that helped garner votes for Frostfire:
Jenny B: "It was a close match between 'Frostfire' and 'Dream Catcher's Light', but looking over the ballot of covers (and my refill of past years), there's a LOT of blue there. So I have to go with the one that manages to forge its own path -- and look good doing so! I love the little leaping bunny, the scrollwork frame, the way the red flowers match her coat, and I'm a sucker for snow. Well done!"
Cover Cafe's Christiane: "Title and picture are perfectly matched. And the red coat is just perfect."
Michelle W: "A stand out image of the heroine that grabs you straight away. The red of her coat, that is echoed in the red fonts and the red trail of roses leading from the edge to her in the middle of the cover."
Lesley also enjoyed the red accents, and appreciated the rabbit: "She looks like a cross between Lucy and the White Witch entering Narnia. The scroll work creates an elegant frame, and the sword/dagger in her hand is intriguing. Plus the rabbit symbol is cute."
Cover Design: Unknown (St. Martin's Griffin)
Cover Design: Unknown (Harper Teen)
Our third place cover this year was The White Rose by Amy Ewing. The unique soft color scheme and transition of the dress into an actual rose made this one popular with the voters.
Renee mentioned that this cover was: "a beautiful reflection of inside of a rose", while Brenda S. thought it was "the most visually appealing" of all the nominees.
Robin pointed out that "the dress is stunning and draws the eye to the title", and Sonia explained, "I love the white color, the dress, the apparent simplicity..."
Coming in fourth was Mary E. Pearson's The Heart of Betrayal. This cover featured a more subtle pop of red, as well as a stunning title font and surrounding artwork. Several voters mentioned the air of mystery created by the cover visuals:
Cover Cafe's Mary Alice: "I like the shades of gray in this cover. The shadows and fog lend an air of mystery to the woman. Her red dress against the grays gives the cover a touch of pop, and immediately lends itself to a mystery: is she running to or from someone? Is she looking back from where she came; or forward to where she's going? Lots of questions in this cover!"
Other voters were mainly drawn to the color scheme and title fontwork:
Kelly L: "I've been drooling over The Witch of Painted Sorrows for months, but this one edged it at the last minute. Wow, the colors and the mysterious buildings and the woman's dress as one lively streak of red in all that blue."
Kaye: "The color is beautiful and mystical."
Deborah R: "Love the way the graphics of the title and type are part of the image itself. And the red dress against all that gray/purple is stunning."
Cover Design: Anna Booth (Henry Holt & Company)
Cover Design: Erin Fitzsimmons Illustration: Brooke Shaden (Katherine Tegen Books)
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis took fifth place. Not surprisingly, voters were drawn to the truly usual position of the heroine and other imagery:
Nicci A says, "It captured my attention right away. The model's pose and the hand grasping her foot are intriguing, and the clever and effective placement of the font emphasizes the title."
Cover Cafe's Jenny: "A Madness So Discreet gets my vote. It's quite captivating. Doesn't the woman on the cover look quite relaxed despite the fact that she's falling through the floor?! And then there's that hand that's taken hold of her foot! Scary!"
Cover Cafe's Mary Lynn shared: "I opted for [this cover] because the image is bizarre, creepy, and disturbing. It also matches the title perfectly in that the more you look at it, the more you see in the picture. That very subtle, otherworldly hand grabbing her foot, those vines creeping under her dress; they all suggest elements of what you'll find in this story that would definitely make me want to pick up the book and find out more!"
And Brooke B. found this cover very unique: "I've never seen a cover quite like it. It makes me HAVE to seek the book out."
In sixth place we find The Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton. This cover's fans primarily enjoyed the element of a period setting as part of an AV cover:
Roseanna W: "I'm a big fan of ancient settings and love the overlay in this cover."
Kim: "The cover appears to invoke the time period and, I assume, the plot in the book."
Cover Cafe's Marian: "I love the romance of the cover."
Cover Design: Laura K. Corless (NAL)
Cover Design: Alan Dingman Photos by Getty and iStock (Atria Books)
The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose came in seventh, and won votes because of a beautiful color scheme, plus a city laid out in the background behind the featured heroine.
Amanda found this cover: "Elegant and mysterious. I would definitely pick this one up in the bookstore to learn more about it."
Melissa liked this cover because of the "color composition and font choice", while Natalie "liked the colors used".
Briar commented: "Intriguing cover and composition, love it!"
Illusionarium by Heather Dixon landed in eighth place. The pop of red from the dress was wonderfully eye-catching, but it was the border of gears and mist-shrouded view in the distance that really caught my attention.
Yuri said: "There are some beautiful covers here, but most make me feel sad. 'Illusionarium' also has an ominous aspect but at least there are two of them facing it together. Plus I liked the costumes and there's something about that foot on the pavement and the skirts that suggest movement which is hard to do."
Sandra M: "It surprises me I really like this one - I've never read steampunk. But I love the splash of color amid the gears and the mist, moving toward the Illusionarium perhaps? Mysterious enough probably to make me pick the book up."
In Ninth Place is Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes. The predominance of blues on the cover, plus the fact that the heroine is presumably fighting against living out the implied Peter Pan storyline, made this one of my favorites. Other voters agreed:
Malvina: "It's so cool! Obviously a forward play on Peter Pan, and she's about to fly out that window. Yes, please, take us with you!"
Cover Cafe's Kat: "It is an eye catching cover. I love the ordinary setting mixed with the magical elements. The picture immediately made me think of Peter Pan. I like that it gives a subtle nod to Peter Pan without being overdone. I also like the contrast of the character holding on to the window as an anchor while the rest of her is starting to fly. It is a magical and memorable cover."
Adrienne: "The actual picture is breathtaking. The model's hidden face, the way she's clinging to the window to try to stay grounded, and the poetic pose of her body just speak volumes to me. I'd read this book for the cover alone."
Last but not least, Dream Casters: Light by Adrienne Woods rounds out our slate in tenth place. I found the disintegrating crystal ball in the heroine's hands captivating, as well as the dragons and other mysteries inside. This sentiment was shared by our voters:
Rory Lynn L: "Inside the mysterious crystal ball it looks as if there is a world just waiting to be explored and what Dreams will the crystal cast? I would buy by the cover alone."
Mary: "The overall feel is dream-like. Also, love the dragons!"