“They were everywhere: The air dazzled and shimmered with feathers and down. The birds swirled and dived and plummeted around the neighbourhood street, the streetlights catching wings, beaks, claws. Most of them were ravens, but there were others, too. Little chickadees, streamlined mourning doves, compact jays. These smaller birds seemed more chaotic than the ravens, though, as if they had gotten caught up in the spirit of the night without understanding the purpose. Some of them let out little squawks or cries, but mostly the sound was wings. The humming, rushing whoosh of frantic flight.”
– Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven King
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater is my all time favourite book series. It is a complex story told in multiple point of view. Its characters, rooted in realistic psychology, populate a modern day Virginia where magic is lurking beneath the surface.
I toyed with the idea of what covers I would have designed for these books for quite some time, and since the author is coming out with a whole new trilogy set in the same world and with some of the same characters, it felt like the perfect time to indulge in a re-read and bring my alternative vision into reality.
My design was inspired by a pivotal scene in the fourth book that the quote above is from. I thought the image of a flock of birds swirling around each other would serve as a lovely visual metaphor for this story.
There is an overarching plot, concerned with a quest to find the resting place of a medieval Welsh king, but these books are about so much more than that. They are a collage of many stories intertwined with each other, addressing a wide range of topics, such as friendship, belonging, privilege, abuse, PTSD, creativity, sexual orientation, and religion.
I decided to gather several images relating to the plot of each book and place them into bird silhouettes.
First I created some vector silhouettes, referencing stock images of ravens. Than, I spent a couple of hours shifting these around till I came to a composition I liked.
There is an escalating nature to the narrative. As we learn more and more about the characters more and more layers are introduced to the story. As the group unearths more and more magic in their quest, we get from a slightly paranormal story set in a mostly realistic world, to a chaotic dreamscape where reality seems to have little meaning. This is what the growing number of birds is meant to represent.
I had the idea to create a spectrum of colours across the covers. Green, orange, purple, and blue fit the mood of the individual books nicely. This later got reduced to looser colour theme, in order to allow for certain iconic objects – such as a bright orange Camaro – to keep their signature colours.
I included plain black silhouettes, the number of which reflect the order of the books, to make the covers more legible. – With images in all the silhouettes, the covers would get confusing: we'd lose the shape of the birds. Add a couple of easily recognisable black ravens, and we can read all the silhouettes as birds.
In an interview, Maggie Stiefvater talked about her lifelong dream of becoming an author whose name is bigger on the cover than the title. I decided to make this happen: in contrast to other type elements, set in the font Ivy Journal, the authors name is custom lettering I drew myself.
Since the covers were pretty busy already, I chose to keep the typography relatively simple, and just support the collage look. This had a welcome connection to the journal of a main character, the contents of which are described as an artful collage of clippings and images taken from many sources.
The logos and texts on these covers are not mine: I took them from the originals. This is a self-initiated project I created for my own creative satisfaction. I'm not affiliated with the author or publisher in any way. I'm just a fan of their work, who was inspired by what she read.