The 20 Best Book Covers in the Fantasy Genre

POSTED ON Jun 11, 2024

Elena Rapovets

Written by Elena Rapovets

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It’s hard to overstate the importance of a great book cover. The best book covers grab readers’ attention and spark their curiosity about the story inside. For fantasy books, the cover sets the stage for a journey filled with wonders and adventures.

A few key elements contribute to an effective fantasy book cover. First, it should resonate with the content of your story, whether it features scenes, maps, or magical elements and artifacts. Second, the cover must capture your book’s mood, setting the right emotional tone. And, of course, if you want your book to sell, it needs to meet genre expectations and reflect current trends in cover design.

Best Book Covers in Fantasy: Timeless Classic Designs

A timeless book cover does more than look good—it captures the essence of the story and sets the visual standards for its genre. Classic fantasy covers excel at this, revealing the magical worlds inside that draw readers in. They blend elements of adventure and mystery, perfectly setting readers’ expectations.

These iconic book covers have become benchmarks in the industry, influencing generations of designers. They brilliantly showcase what makes fantasy books special, as memorable as the stories they encase.

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, 1937

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Book Cover

The Hobbit is a tale of Bilbo Baggins’ adventure to reclaim a lost Dwarf kingdom. The 75th Anniversary Edition cover, based on Tolkien’s original design, captures the essence of the journey with its simple yet striking imagery. The bold colors and iconic mountains instantly evoke a sense of epic adventure, and the classic serif typeface adds an ancient feel.

2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, 1950

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis Book Cover

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe tells the story of four siblings in Narnia, where they meet the great lion Aslan and fight the White Witch. This modern cover keeps the classic illustration by Pauline Baynes to maintain a sense of nostalgia. It also uses modern trends like bold, contrasting colors and clear, prominent text. This makes the title pop while still showing the timeless and magical nature of the story.

3. The Once and Future King by T.H. White, 1958

The Once and Future King by T.H. White Book Cover

The Once and Future King retells the story of King Arthur and his knights. Its classic cover features a simple illustration of a knight under a tree, using striking red text to highlight the theme of chivalry and legend. The minimalistic design draws readers into the classic tale.

4. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, 1979

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende Book Cover

The Neverending Story explores a boy’s adventure in a magical realm he brings to life. Its cover displays mythical creatures and fantastical imagery, capturing the book’s spirit of endless imagination. The detailed art and elegant text invite readers into this surreal world.

5. The Gunslinger by Stephen King, 1982

The Gunslinger by Stephen King Book Cover

The Gunslinger is the first volume of King’s dark fantasy series. It follows a lone hero, Roland Deschain, and its most iconic cover features Roland’s silhouette with a fiery sky and a dark tower in the background. Newer editions combine the classic image with modern, bold lettering, capturing the adventurous essence of the story.

6. American Gods by Neil Gaiman, 2001

American Gods by Neil Gaiman Book Cover

American Gods dives into the clash between old and new gods in America. The cover shows a long road stretching under a stormy sky, split by lightning. This powerful image and the prominent, gold text fit the book’s theme of epic myths unfolding in modern America.

7. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, 1997

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling Book Cover

This original U.S. edition cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone captures the magic and adventure that defines the series. Illustrated by Mary GrandPré, it features Harry in mid-flight on his broom over Hogwarts, framed by a mystical, golden arch. The whimsical, vibrant colors and dynamic composition draw readers into Harry’s magical world.

8. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, 2002

Night Watch by Terry Pratchett Book Cover

The cover of Night Watch, illustrated by Paul Kidby, is inspired by Rembrandt’s famous The Night Watch. The scene features the members of the Watch and captures the spirit of the story, mirroring the book’s blend of humor and complexity.

9. Eragon by Christopher Paolini, 2002

Eragon by Christopher Paolini Book Cover

Eragon is the first book in the Inheritance Cycle, following a young farm boy who discovers a dragon egg. This cover uses the original detailed artwork of the dragon Saphira, updated with modern design elements. Compared to older editions, this one uses a cleaner typeface and enhanced colors, making the design more contemporary.

10. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, 2001

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris Book Cover

Dead Until Dark introduces Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress in a world where vampires live openly. The original cover design features a whimsical, almost eerie illustration of Sookie being carried by a vampire over a small town. The playful yet dark imagery and quirky font set the tone for this supernatural mystery.

Fantasy book covers are constantly evolving, influenced by new technology and changes in reader preferences. Modern designs vary from colorful, detailed illustrations to simpler, bold aesthetics. There’s a notable trend towards minimalism, with covers that use powerful symbols linked closely to the story’s main themes. Digital art techniques allow for exceptionally detailed and vivid colors.

Another key trend in modern fantasy book covers is the prominent use of typography. Nowadays, striking, decorative fonts often become central to the cover design. These fonts are not only larger but are also intricately integrated into the overall design. This approach helps books stand out, even at thumbnail size on digital platforms.

Modern covers often pay homage to classic fantasy motifs, like mythical creatures and enchanted landscapes, but with a contemporary twist that suits current tastes. This mix of the traditional and the new helps maintain the spirit of the fantasy genre while appealing to today’s readers.

11. Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, 2019

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James Book Cover

Black Leopard, Red Wolf delves into a mythical Africa, blending history and fantasy in a vivid, brutal narrative. This cover’s intense colors and patterns are a great example of modern design. The image of a fierce wolf with elements of African art grabs readers’ attention and matches the story’s mood.

12. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, 2019

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo Book Cover

Ninth House explores the dark side of magical societies at Yale University. The cover follows modern design trends with a simple but striking image of a snake. This compelling design is set against a dark background; clean, prominent typography hints at the novel’s exploration of dark themes.

13. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, 2019

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon Book Cover

The Priory of the Orange Tree unfolds an epic tale of dragons and ancient lore. Its cover combines traditional fantasy imagery with modern design. The dragon and the vivid, golden palette catch the eye, blending epic scale with contemporary aesthetics.

14. The Burning God by R.F. Kuang, 2020

The Burning God by R.F. Kuang Book Cover

The Burning God concludes a fantasy series with military and historical underpinnings. The cover features the dynamic artwork of a warrior mid-battle. It uses minimalist brush strokes and a subdued color scheme to highlight the book’s action-packed narrative.

15. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow, 2020

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow Book Cover

The Once and Future Witches combines magic with the fight for women’s rights in an alternate history of New Salem. Its cover uses a mix of flowers and magical symbols around bold text, reflecting the novel’s themes of female empowerment and mysticism. This detailed and layered artwork draws in contemporary readers.

16. The Serpent & the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent, 2020

The Serpent & the Wings of Night by Carissa Broadbent Book Cover

The Serpent & the Wings of Night takes readers into a world of dark fantasy and romance. The cover shows a serpent with icy blue designs, fitting the book’s magical theme. Cool tones and a sleek typeface make it look fresh and appealing to modern readers.

17. The Book That Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence, 2021

The Book That Wouldn't Burn by Mark Lawrence Book Cover

The Book That Wouldn’t Burn explores a magical, dystopian society in a library setting. The cover has a detailed drawing of a grand library, capturing the book’s focus on knowledge and power. The golden tones and symmetrical design echo the story’s themes, and the modern font and layout make it stand out on bookshelves.

18. The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty, 2022

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty Book Cover

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi captures the essence of seafaring and adventure. Its cover uses a vibrant palette and dynamic imagery, depicting a ship battling stormy seas, perfectly mirroring the novel’s thrilling maritime adventures.

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19. Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett, 2023

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett Book Cover

Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries presents a magical and scholarly vibe. The cover features ornate, fairy-tale-style illustrations that surround the title, inviting readers into a world of mysterious and enchanting lore.

20. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros, 2023

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros Book Cover

Fourth Wing combines elements of danger and the supernatural. The cover design incorporates intricate, almost arcane symbols within a circular motif, suggesting the high-stakes and mystical nature of the story.

Final thoughts

The definition of what makes beautiful book covers changes constantly. Yet, there’s something that iconic book covers and modern book covers have in common.

Ultimately, the best book covers are those that not only look good but also pull readers into their stories. They grab attention and set the scene for the adventure inside.

Whether creating or choosing a book cover, consider how it tells part of your story before the first page is even turned.

Elena Rapovets

Written by
Elena Rapovets

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