Cover vs Cover: Fight!

Last weekend, during a browsing session in an Oxfam bookshop in Chester, I found an interesting pair of books on opposite shelves, which resulted in me making the following tweet shortly after:

Templar-Books

Now I should say at this point that referring to these two novels as “Dan Brown wannabes” is unfair. Shorn of the shackles imposed by the Twitter’s 140 character limit, I would probably have described them as books in the “religious-conspiracy-secret-history” genre created by Dan Brown’s hugely successful 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code.

But what I find fascinating is that we have his two books, published at around the same time, that are not merely in the same genre, but on themes so similar that the designers of their covers were probably given near-identical instructions. Which means that just as identical twins are irresistibly fascinating to biologists, these two books allow us to see two forks in the wood, both of which were taken, and decide which fork we think was the most successful.

The Brief

Both books focus on the Knights Templar, a Catholic military order active between the years 1139 and 1312, and about whom much myth and legend has accrued in the years since their violent suppression by the French King Philip IV.

Both covers were produced with a quality finish with embossed text.

Potential Resources Available to the Designers

Templar knights wore distinctive white mantles with a red cross, and to this day, the red cross is associated with them. In addition, the order had a seal, which depicted two knights sharing a single horse. I found some examples of both:

TemplarCrossTemplarSeal

The Contenders

The Red Corner The Blue Corner
Title: The Last Templar Title: The Templar Legacy
Author: Raymond Khoury Author: Steve Berry
Nationality: British Nationality: American
Published: 2005 Published: 2006
LastTemplar-Front TemplarLegacy-Front
LastTemplar-Back TemplarLegacy-Back

(Click for higher resolution images).

Thoughts on the Designs

What I find fascinating is that both cover designers have gone with the same elements (the cross and the seal), but in very different ways.

The Last Templar uses the whole cross, and puts the seal at its centre. It then adds a background of a New York skyline inside the cross (click on the image to see this in more detail). It combines this with an “old, torn manuscript” backdrop.

The Templar Legacy by contract, is much more abstract. The cross is there, but in a blurred, partial form, and the seal is used only as a very muted backdrop to that cross (again, you might have to click on the image to see this). Combine that with the black background and you get a much darker image, which perhaps is not trying quite so hard to project the “religious-conspiracy-secret-history” angle.

Me? I think I prefer The Last Templar. Perhaps the cover isn’t quite so subtle, but I just like the aged manuscript theme. What about you? Please let me know in the comments.

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P.S. I will be at Innominate (Eastercon 2017) in a few weeks selling Game Night and If Pigs Could Fly. I’m going to bring both of these books along and run a vote as to which one people like best. So if you’re at the con, and fancy examining the actual physical items, please drop by.

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