Robin Hobb Cover Art Part 2

Books come and go. But when books are really good they stay in print. And when books stay in print they often change their clothes. Robin Hobb’s books began life dressed in the jackets designed by John Howe. Next I was asked to redesign the covers, to appeal to a new audience. And then time passed and something unheard of happened. It was time to refresh the covers again and the art department and editorial department of Harper Collins asked me if I would be prepared to take a second bite of the cherry and redesign again.


But how?

Robin has a new book out in August, something long awaited by some, feared by others. Something amazing. I read it last year while still in its editorial stages. The new book will stand alone to anyone finding Hobb for the first time, but in order to get the best out of the new book readers will have to have read the Assassin trilogy and the Fool trilogy, because the book explores the lives of Fitz and the Fool again.

I began reading with trepidation. I loved the first books so much. What if this one didn’t meet my expectations? Well, it didn’t. Because I am not Robin Hobb, and I don’t have the breadth of her imagination. It far exceeded anything I could have conceived and excelled in ways I could never have imagined and held me in its words and …….. I can’t say more. But what Harper Collins want is for people who have not yet discovered the wonderful books of Hobb to find them. All those who love George RR Martin and are waiting for his next one, wait no longer, get reading Hobb. Her books shine and Fitz and the Fool are two of the best characters in modern fiction. And so this is why I was asked to re-jacket the books. For a new generation of readers and for those who adore her work. There are many of us.

But how?

I began by talking with the editorial team, and the design team. They had already had meetings and had a firm idea of the look they wanted. And so I started sketching.

ideas45 1stthoughts 1stideas

It was difficult to ‘see’ a new look. At first I tried making Robin’s name the key thing. Doing one book cover is easy. Trying to get something that will work over a series, that’s the hardest thing. Each cover must speak both for the book and for the series. Editorial were keen to try a look that echoed the ‘historical’ nature of the books. They are fantasy, yes, but they have an atmosphere of medieval Europe about them, and yet they are current in their political power play and intrigue.

ideas idas2 r r2

I was going around in circles until Dominic Forbes took hold of the shield idea and shaped the design. I then did a series of roughs searching for the symbols to go on the shields. Jane Johnson was on the end of the line in Morocco, helping and guiding. As Robin’s editor, she knows the books so well, and as the person who first commissioned me to do the covers so long ago I felt that I needed to keep this connection with her strong, even though she has moved on to spending more time writing ( She still edits Robin and George RR Martin, and many other big names in fiction. I have no idea how she finds the time, but was so grateful for her guidance with this. To find out more about Jane have a look at this interview I did with her some time back.)

ideas4 shields moreshields


A calligrapher was brought in to draw the titles, Stephen Raw. His work is elegant and he has worked on maps for the Tolkien books that are now in the collection of the British Library. We talked about illuminated letters.

Assassins sculpt


We talked about shields. We talked about colours. Here’s what Dom has to say about the design. ( He is very generous in his comments here as I think I was a pain in the arse to work with this time and had to have my hand held at all times both by Dom in London and Jane in Morocco)

veritys wolfshield2


And then I thought to do Nighteyes with an axe and a red ship in the shield. ( Meanwhile I was reminded that Nighteyes is a grey wolf.)

wrong nighteyesaxe redshipssails




And there were small daggers for details in the lettering.

All the art was sent away and made beautiful in the design department. This was the first work I had done for years that had an embargo on it. I still can’t show the designs for Fool’s Assassin, but I can say read the Assassin trilogy now, and the Fool’s trilogy. Then, in August you will be ready.









It is a great privilege to be asked to work with a writer whose work you love as much as I do Robin Hobb’s. To be asked twice is an honour.

The covers were released first on Robin Hobb’s website. So far most of the feedback has been very positive. Hopefully, soon, we can show the art for Fool’s Assassin, which will be released in hardback in August in the UK, when Robin is in London for LonCon.

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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27 Responses to Robin Hobb Cover Art Part 2

  1. These are beautiful. I need to re-read the books. (I seldom do that, but these, I would.)
    When I read them it was books from the library before you did the covers.
    I’d be interested to see if there is some visual clarification of the village in the mountains where the young queen came from. (Sorry I have forgotten her name.) I found it a little difficult to work out in my head where the various cottages, etc were located. Perhaps reading it again would help. I still have a vivid mental image of the Purple and white warm and regal outfit she wore.
    Sandy in Bracknell

  2. How wonderful! I’m a huge fan of your work and love your blog – (thought have never been brave enough to comment before!) I’m also a Robin Hobb fanatic – so this news is just fantastic. I’m off to read the first 2 trilogies again, and will excitedly look forward to the new books with your cover designs!

    • Jackie says:

      If you read the Fool trilogy and the Assassins that would be good. Love the Liveships too and looking forward to immersing myself in those too. And thanks for commenting. No need to be brave, I love it when people comment. Infact it was through someone commenting on my blog that I first discovered her books.

  3. frankie perry carboni says:

    I love the calligraphic look as I’ve already commented on FB , but I also love that parchment effect, it brings to mind immediately all of those old scrolls in all of the books. The details are beautiful – Nighteyes is a complete work of art. Thanks to a very bad cold I’ve just finished The Rain Wilds Chronicles in record time so now I’m ready to go back to the beginning and love these books all over again in time for the new one.

    • Jackie says:

      Working on the Fool books over the next few weeks. Again I think will be hidden until complete, but loving re reading the wonderful books. So rich, in every way.

  4. Impressive, and SO well deserved.

  5. Nadia Turner says:

    Oooh LOVE seeing these sorts of processes! Thank you! I loved the designs you did before but these are really at the next level of awesomeness 😉 I’m going to go buy these just so I have the cover art (and of course to read as I’ve only read assassins apprentice so far but currently loving the liveship books)
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on all these great books -I’ve discovered so many new authors, including Hobb, through reading your words.. 🙂

  6. Izzy Wingham says:

    Very beautiful covers. I really enjoyed the liveship traders trilogy and these books are on my to read next list. Really interesting to see the whole process. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Taanit Corrêa says:

    These are so incredibly gorgeous!
    I’ve read all Robb’s Realm of the Elderlings related books, and absolutely loved them! The only ones I actually own are the Farseer Trilogy in portuguese and the Willful Princess in english. I’ve been wanting to buy them all for myself, but now I really want to wait and buy these ones, with the new covers!
    Do you know if you’ll re-do the other trilogies’ covers with this design too? I’m a bit of a… Hmm… I don’t know what to call it, but I love to see my bookshelf full, and having the books of the same author, or at least of related worlds, all in line and with the same covers’ edition! So it would be really, really awesome to finally buy all Robb’s books and have them all with this design edition!
    Congratulations on the amazing work! =)

  8. Meghan says:

    Just bought all 3 of these gorgeous books! I am pretty much in love with every single thing Hobb writes. Thank goodness for Book Depository because it was going to cost a fortune through Amazon UK to have them shipped to the US. I eagerly await adding to my collection!

  9. Diane McNally says:

    I have just finished reading Fools Assassin and have all the books in the series. As a long time reader my collection has the ‘old’ covers and they are very appropriate to the books. However your cover is amazing – the rich golden colour ties in so well with the characters, the crossed daggers, the picture of the house in winter, the royal blue pennant – sets up a feast for the eye before the reader even sees the text. The symbolism is perfect. I loved opening the book and there was the flower spring with the bee perched ontop. At the end, I was sad to leave after reading but there again was the lovely flower and bee. A perfect cover for a long awaited return to the world of Fitz and Fool. Can’t wait for the next one.

  10. Dani Griffiths says:

    I love the new art work, but was wondering are the new books getting released with your previous art style? I have every one of them up to The Fitz and Fool Trilogy and they are all your original artwork, which I absolutely love. If not I’ll buy them all again in the new format (because I am a little too crazy for my own good:-P)

    • Jackie says:

      I’m afraid the new books have been designed to go with the new look of the old books. If that makes sense.
      Sadly the old ones are only available in paperback.

  11. Kiel says:

    Hi, Jackie. I love the cover to Book 2 of the new Fitz and the Fool series – Fools Quest. I was wondering what the chance would be of getting a big poster version of it.

  12. Jancis says:

    Hi, Jackie! I love the latest book covers for the Robin Hobb books. They’re so classic and fit so well on an old bookshelf. I’m very proud of my matching collection… I saw you briefly in Bath the other week and didn’t have the chance to ask you: in all the books of your more recent artwork the first letter of the title is illuminated (eg. [A]ssassin’s Apprentice/ [F]ool’s Fate. Is there a reason why Fool’s Quest is different? I recently noticed that it’s the only one with the second word illuminated.
    p.s. Thanks for signing my book!

  13. Pingback: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – Bookworm

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