Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shelf Candy Saturday #147: Sabriel, by Garth Nix

Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!!

This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful book covers!
It also provides information,
if available, on their very talented creators!

For more information
about Shelf Candy Saturday,
simply go HERE.

Here's my choice for this week!

(Old Kingdom, Book 1)
Mass Market Paperback, 496 pages
Harper Teen (Reprint Edition)
August 23, 1997
Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult Fiction

My Thoughts About This Cover

This is such an exquisitely designed cover! The overall composition is very strong and bold. The boldness and simplicity of the design contrasts with the rhythmically flowing, sensuous sleeves of the tunic worn by the character on the cover. The suggestion of wind in the hair billowing out behind the character's head, and echoed in the left-hand sleeve, are also a marked contrast with the character's firm, static pose. The lower, left-hand side of the character's tunic also seems to billow with the wind, and forms a rather curious little image that resembles a wave in the ocean. All of these elements create compositional tension, which makes for a more dynamic image.

I suppose this character is Sabriel, the female protagonist of this novel, because the left hand has long fingernails, and is holding up a little silver bell in a rather delicate manner. This pose contrasts sharply with her firm hold on the sword, which I think points to contrasts in her personality -- courageous and decisive, versus delicate and sensitive. It's interesting, too, that there's yet another  contrast -- between what her right hand and left hand are doing; this seems to point to left-brain versus right-brain behavior.

I love the tunic Sabriel is wearing, too. It's obvious that the fabric is richly-detailed, yet resistant to wear and tear. The two belts crisscrossing it are fascinating to look at; the one at her waist has a glowering face for a buckle, while the one across her chest displays hanging decorations whose purpose is not entirely clear. In fact, her whole outfit points to someone of royal lineage, who is also a warrior.

Another very interesting element of this composition is the mysterious, sinister-looking creature standing behind Sabriel's left shoulder. Sabriel seems to be totally unaware of this figure, which is puzzling. I wonder if this "thing" (not sure what it is) is really an ally of the kingdom. Whatever it is, those long, claw-like fingers sure look menacing!

The one thing I really don't like about this cover is that I'm not entirely sure whether the character portrayed is, indeed, Sabriel, the female protagonist. If it is, then I have to say that she looks a bit too masculine. The character is thus rendered sexually ambiguous, which is something I am not at all comfortable with.

The letter font used for the title and author's name has a distinctly medieval flavor to it, and complements the artwork beautifully. I do wish, though, that the title had been done in a lighter shade of brown, so that it would stand out more.

As I had suspected, this stunning cover is the work of Leo and Diane Dillon, the brilliant artist duo who have created so many great fantasy covers. Their covers are always beautiful, unique, and are done in a style that, while realistic, is also very much influenced by the overall abstract design,

I have featured the work of these artists, who are among my favorite book illustrators, in other posts. They have never failed to delight and fascinate me with their work!

Sadly, Leo Dillon passed away on May 26, 2012, at the age of 79.

From the Locus Magazine Article

Leo Dillon (Lionel John Dillon, Jr.) and Diane Dillon (née Diane Claire Sorber) were born 11 days apart in March 1933, on opposite coasts. He grew up in Brooklyn, she was born and raised in California, and they met in 1953 while attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. They married in 1957. Son Lee (Lionel John Dillon III), born in 1965, also became an artist; in the '90s, he collaborated with them on several projects, including the illustrations for Pish, Posh, Said Hieronymus Bosch by Nancy Willard (1991).

They met Harlan Ellison in 1959, after doing illustrations for Rogue, the men's magazine he was then editing in Chicago. That meeting would eventually have major consequences for the field of SF and fantasy art, thanks to their illustrations for Dangerous Visions (1967), and a subsequent meeting
with Terry Carr, who recruited them as cover artists for the Ace Specials in the '60s and '70's.It was mainly that work
for Ace which earned them their
1971 Hugo for SF art.

You can access the entire article,
which includes a
fascinating interview with Karen Haber,

Online Links


What do you think of my 
choice this week?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!


  1. I agree that powerful simplicity is what I think about when I look at this cover.

    The figure does seem to exude a bit of masculinity. We may differ just a bit on this Maria, but I do think that this shows through art, that there are all sorts of different people out there.

    The creature in the background is really interesting. Based on the book synopsis that I read it seems like it is an ally that the protagonist is not completely trusting of.

    1. Hey, Brian!

      Oh, I LOVE the bold, simple design of this cover! You can see that the whole composition is made up of large shapes that are very harmoniously related. This makes the cover look very striking!

      As for Sabriel, the first time I saw this cover, I thought the character depicted was a guy, and not just because the figure indeed looks very masculine, but also because of the name "Sabriel". I thought this character was an angel -- a male angel. In the Bible, all of the angels' names end in "el": Gabriel, Rafael, Michael. There are other angels' names mentioned in sources outside the Bible, like Uriel. But you see how all of these are male angels. So I originally thought that this book dealt with angels. When I read the plot summary on Wikipedia, I saw that the book had nothing to do with angels, but then was surprised to see that Sabriel was a woman! Not that i dislike that; you know I LOVE to read about strong female protagonists. However, I do think that the figure on the cover looks much too masculine.

      I LOVE the Dillons's work, and do like this cover a lot. However, the fact that the figure looks sexually ambiguous does take a bit away from my enjoyment of the cover.

      Other artists go to the opposite extreme, and depict strong female protagonists dressed in a VERY provocative manner, or hardly dressed at all. This can be seen in the work of Boris Vallejo, an artist of consummate skill, but whose work is full of such overly sexy female figures. In fact, I consider it soft porn!

      As you can see, I don't like extremes in cover illustration, either, just as I don't in politics! Lol.

      As for the strange creature behind Sabriel, yes, it's actually an ally. I found out when I read the plot summary. I didn't mention that in the post, though, because I read the summary after completing the post. If I were Sabriel, I wouldn't trust this creature much, either! Lol.

      Thanks for the great comment!! : )


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