Survey and comparison of fantasy novel cover art, 2008/9

Every year, Orbit Books's summer intern conducts a survey of fantasy novel cover-art for the year. This year, Orbit is releasing the data as a series, with commentary. Fascinating stuff: 'We have concrete evidence that the big three fantasy cover clichés ("castles", "glowy magic", and "swords") are in decline. The 50% reduction in castles can only mean one thing.'

The Chart of Fantasy Art, 2009 (via Making Light)


  1. They neglected to include those penny-dreadful novels that for some reason always feature half a women’s face on the cover.

  2. Does this chart say anything?

    Unless I’m misreading it, everything trended down in 2009, leading us to the only possible conclusion that there were fewer books of the genre printed that year.

    Without normalization it’s really hard to take anything away from the graphic.

    1. maps, hobbits and guns went up but your point still stands as they arent enough to make up the numbers.

      In for normalised graph

  3. I am shocked by the paucity of Zeppelins, but that may be due to this being Fantasy rather than SF.

  4. “The 50% reduction in castles can only mean one thing.”

    Continuing fallout from the collapse of the real estate bubble?

  5. “Continuing fallout from the collapse of the real estate bubble?”

    Boing. Good one.

    Everyone see that pretty green used to trends newly tracked in 2009? Methinks that accounts for the falloff in castles . . . castles have apparently faded into the mist. Or the fog.

  6. @ 7 With the increase in castle foreclosures and downsizing on the part of evil overlords to reduce costs, middle management henchman and entry-level minions are finding employment options are limited. The market remains flat for healers, but the thieves guilds continue to hire despite recent investigations into collusion between the major guilds and the money-changers. Some scryers anticipate an increased demand for assassins and possibly necromancers if investigations continue.

  7. Did this chart spring from an Edward Tufte nightmare? I’m no expert, but it took some time and effort to understand what little that graphic says. Are others seeing as a bad a payoff for the effort as I?

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