Writing fantasy allows us to flip the world as we know it inside out, upside down, and then stretch it out as far as our imagination can take it. There are no limitations, and that’s the beauty of the genre. Where other categories of fiction are grounded in reality, fantasy has no bottom…or top. It just is.
One of the reasons you’ll find so much diversity in fantasy book cover design is that there is such a wide range of characters, worlds, and storylines to interpret.
Below we’ll take a look at 10 engaging fantasy book covers and pinpoint some of their standout qualities.
What Makes Fantasy Book Covers Appealing?
Engaging fantasy book covers are equal parts author imagination and audience expectation. As with every book, what an audience expects from the genre is a good starting point. With fantasy, it’s okay to stretch the boundaries of design as long as you remember the following:
- Stay true to the story’s theme
- Use colors, fonts, and typography to your advantage by creating a “feeling” or mood
- Create excitement by giving a hint about what’s inside
- Don’t forget the subgenres: (e.g., comic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, sword & sorcery, high fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy)
If you’ve written an amazing fantasy novel that you want to share with the world, don’t forget that your story starts on the cover.
Let’s see if the fantasy book covers below spark your imagination. I’ve included the book description and subgenre. What do you think? Do the covers match the book’s synopsis? Do they follow the four points that I listed above?
Fantasy Book Covers: Examples
1. Vows & Ruins by Helen Scheuerer
Subgenre: Romantic Fantasy
Book Synopsis (partial): Against all odds, Althea Zoltaire emerged from her trials as a champion. Now, she must train even harder and prepare herself to become a true warrior of Thezmarr.
But Thea’s world is turned upside down as she struggles to navigate her newfound magic and uncover the secrets of her past. Slowly, she begins to untangle the truth about her family, her powers and the evil that threatens to engulf the kingdom… Source
Why the cover works: Two crossed swords and a bronze-colored flourish pattern as a backdrop are familiar elements of the romantic fantasy genre. The fonts, typography, and colors fit the subgenre. Despite the use of minimal elements, the space is used fully without looking overcrowded.
2. Fairy Tale by Stephen King
Subgenre: Dark Fantasy
Book Synopsis (partial): Legendary storyteller Stephen King goes into the deepest well of his imagination in this spellbinding novel about a seventeen-year-old boy who inherits the keys to a parallel world where good and evil are at war, and the stakes could not be higher—for that world or ours. Source
Why the cover works: Smart use of texture and lighting. From an overhead view, the circle looks like an eye and the circular stone pavement looks like scales, but that’s what my eyes see. What do yours see?
3. Warriorborn: A Cinder Spires Novella by Jim Butcher
Subgenre: Gaslamp Fantasy
Book Description (partial): Benedict Sorellin-Lancaster hasn’t even broken in his lieutenant’s insignia when he’s summoned to meet with the Spirearch of Spire Albion himself for a very special—and very secret—purpose. The Spirearch needs Benedict to retrieve a bag he’s “misplaced” on the Colony Spire known as Dependence, which has strangely cut off all contact with the outside world. It’s a delicate mission at best, a potential bloodbath at worst.
To this end, the Spirearch has supplied Benedict with backup in the form of three Warriorborn. But unlike the courageous lieutenant, this trio has formerly used its special gifts for crime, carnage, and outright bloody murder. And all of them were caught and imprisoned because of Benedict. Now, if they behave—and make it back alive—they’ll go free. Source
Why the cover works: Flying ships. Flying Dragons. Inner workings of a timepiece or machine. These are all the perfect setup for a gaslamp fantasy. As a close cousin to the subgenre steampunk, this cover combines many of the most familiar elements of the category.
4. The Unfortunate Side Effects of Heartbreak and Magic by Breanne Randall
Subgenre: Paranormal & Urban Fantasy
Book Synopsis: A warm and witchy Gilmore Girls meets Practical Magic book about love, family, and magic, and the shields we build around our hearts to protect all three.
Set in the quirky, quaint town of Poppy Meadows, this debut novel has it all; a magic garden, an enchanted bakery, and a love story that will break your heart…but not in the way you’re expecting. Source
Why the cover works: Green and yellow work well for the subgenre. Yellow and green by themselves can feel happy and promising, but the subtle weaving in of blue, puts a damper on the mood. It feels like something is off. The fonts used add character to the long title without it feeling overwhelming. The subtle tilt of the glyphs on the end of the letters is just enough to make the title an interesting focal point.
5. Arcanist by Seth Ring
Subgenre: Sword & Sorcery
Book Synopsis (partial): Safe for the moment, Thorn and Velin are faced with a choice…Hide among the cruel Deva, or forge a path that will require all their skill and wit, unlocking the ancient paths of power hidden in the Titan bloodline.
Ahead of them lies Intra Mundum, an endless test that requires courage, strength, and most importantly, strong bonds. As they begin to explore the floors of the tower with a hastily thrown together team, Thorn and Velin will find they have a much stronger connection than they first realized. Source
Why the cover works: While some fantasy book covers leave more to the reader’s imagination when it comes to characters, the choice to reveal the character’s design gives the reader a chance to see his power on display. The cover’s focus becomes more about the power that the character possesses, rather than the character himself. There’s also a nice color play between the green of the earth and the pink glow of his power.
6. Dragonsinger by Ann McCaffrey
Subgenre: Children’s Fantasy & Magic Adventure
Book Synopsis: In the world of Pern, Harpers are more powerful than kings, for the music they play can control the minds of others. For young Menolly, her dreams of becoming a Harper have nothing to do with power, but rather her love of music. Now she is finally living out her musical dreams as an apprentice Harper, but it’s turning out to be more challenging than she thought. Formerly forbidden to study music because of her gender, Menolly quickly encounters hostility from a number of her male peers and masters. Source
With the help of new friends, teachers, and her nine tiny, colorful dragons, Menolly finds that her musical talents may be stronger than anyone could imagine.
Why the cover works: The designer brings an airyness to the design that’s appropriate for this children’s fantasy novel. The vibrant colors and whimsical backdrop make the cover approachable and intriguing for young adventure seekers.
7. A Fire Endless by Rebecca Ross
Subgenre: Dark/Romantic Fantastic
Book synopsis (partial): East and West. Humans and Spirits. Breccans and Tamerlaines. The Isle of Cadence has always held itself and its residents in a tenuous balance. But now Bane, the spirit of the North Wind, has pushed everyone and everything in his path off-kilter in a bid to claim dominion over all….With the island falling further out of balance, humans and spirits alike will need to join together to face Bane, and Jack’s gift with the harp will be called upon once more. Yet no one can challenge the North Wind without paying a terrible price, and the sacrifice required this time may be more than Jack, Adaira, Torin, and Sidra can bear to pay. Source
Why the cover works: The vibrant color of the orange river of fire juxtaposed with the soft fuschia flower petals creates a strong contrast alluding to the potential conflict between opposing forces within its pages. The triangular typography of the title moves against the current of fire moving the eyes upward to the blurb and book praise.
8. A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr
Subgenre: Christian Fantasy
Book Synopsis: The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones
In the backwater village of Callowford, roustabout Errol Stone is enlisted by a church messenger arriving with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Eager for coin, Errol agrees to what he thinks will be an easy task, but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.
Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty nears its end and the selection of the new king begins–but in secret and shadow. As danger mounts, Errol must leave behind the stains and griefs of the past, learn to fight, and discover who is hunting him and his companions and how far they will go to stop the reading of the stones. Source
Why the cover works: A dimly lit castle surrounded by dark menacing clouds creates a stunning backdrop for this Christian fantasy. The tone is set with dark shades of green hinting to the reader that this won’t be your typical bright and bouncy fairy tale. The cover offers just enough visual interest about the drama that’s about to unfold to keep interest piqued.
9. The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi
Subgenre: Action and Adventure Fantasy
Book Synopsis: Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural.
But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will.
Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there’s more to this job, and the girl’s disappearance, than she was led to believe. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savor just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul. Source
Why the cover works: What a wonderful swash of colors! The vivid contrast creates movement on the page. The controlled chaos on the cover plays into the title well. What comes to mind when you think of a fantastical adventure at sea?
10. The Fragile Threads of Power by V.E. Schwab
Subgenre: Gaslamp/Historical Fantasy
Book Synopsis: Once, there were four worlds, nestled like pages in a book, each pulsing with fantastical power and connected by a single city: London. Until the magic grew too fast and forced the worlds to seal the doors between them in a desperate gamble to protect their own. The few magicians who could still open the doors grew more rare as time passed and now, only three Antari are known in recent memory—Kell Maresh of Red London, Delilah Bard of Grey London, and Holland Vosijk, of White London.
But barely a glimpse of them have been seen in the last seven years—and a new Antari named Kosika has appeared in White London, taking the throne in Holland’s absence. The young queen is willing to feed her city with blood, including her own—but her growing religious fervor has the potential to drown it instead.
And back in Red London, King Rhy Maresh is threatened by a rising rebellion, one determined to correct the balance of power by razing the throne entirely.
These two royals from very different empires now face very similar struggles: how to keep their crowns—and their own heads.
Amidst this tapestry of old friends and new enemies, a girl with an unusual magical ability comes into possession of a device that could change the fate of all four worlds.
Her name is Tes, and she’s the only one who can bring them together—or unravel it all. Source
Why the cover works: This cover provides a literal translation of what’s contained in the story. They’ve chosen to put the main character on the cover but by keeping her head covered and face in the shadows, they leave much to the imagination. The complementary colors of orange and blue offer a powerful contrast that helps to set the mysterious, yet intriguing tone of the book.
When designing fantasy book covers, the sky’s the limit. Because the stories within the genre can touch on things that are fairy light all the way to the deepest darkest corners of the underworld, there’s a lot of playground to cover.
Despite the inherent freedom, it’s still important to remain true to your story, subgenre, and your audience’s expectations. It’s a delicate balance, but it can be done well as shown in the previous covers.
You can’t go wrong with allowing your cover design to be an extension of your story because potential buyers begin reading the story on your cover before they ever open the book’s pages.