The Rainwilds revisited

I first visited The Rainwilds when I worked on the covers of Robin Hobb’s brilliant books. To coincide with the publication of Fool’s Quest a ‘new look’ was commissioned by Harper Collins for the whole backlist. Amazingly I was asked to work on this. So, I got to re-read and rework all the covers, the last being The Rainwilds Chronicles.

Re-reading these books, especially in the light of having read Fool’s Quest and Fool’s Assassin I found new depths. I love the Rainwilds. If ever there was a fictional place I desire to visit it is here, preferably via a trip up the river on The Tarman and then a flight across to Kelsingra.

I’ve worked on Robin Hobb’s books for years now. One thing that has been unusual in the fluid publishing industry is that during that time I have worked with the same wonderful art editor, Dominic Forbes, and astonishing calligrapher, Stephen Raw. Working with Stephen’s lettering is a pleasure. Watch him, here. Mesmeric.

But, well, maybe because these are the last, it became something of an epic struggle.There were 9 previous books and 2 subsequent and these had to fit in with the ‘look’ of all of those.

So: lots of sketches, back and forth. As ever I spoke a great deal with Jane too, Robin’s UK editor. How to catch something of the book. To me the atmosphere of the books is rain and trees and dragon, warm, wet, river. It begins with dragons born sick, unformed, moves though triumphantly. Second time round I loved the books more.

So, sketches. doodling6 doodling5 doodling4 doodling3 doodling2 doodling1

Some were approved, some reworked. Eventually I tried to settle, with amended annotated sketches, glorious flowing lettering.

Part way through the struggle, in Cirencester Waterstones I found copies of The Liveships books which at the time had also been a struggle. They looked wonderful, really standing out amongst the other books in the fantasy section.


So, courage. I painted. Then I sent off my work with fingers crossed, to Dom, hoping he could work magic. Some of it I knew wouldn’t be used. I tend to do all of the art at least twice. All is done with watercolour and a brush, because I am what I believe is called a ‘traditional’ illustrator ( old fashioned).

intocolour onboard deskwithhobbs nope bigK

Somehow he always seems to make my work shine. And well, I do love what he has done. And I hope fans of Robin’s will like them too, and that they will draw new readers into discovering her astonishing world.


Once they are done it looks easy. It wasn’t. But it was a pleasure.

Now, like everyone else, I wait… for the final episode in this glorious tale.


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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10 Responses to The Rainwilds revisited

  1. Leslie says:

    So neat to see the behind-the-scenes beginnings of a cover whose contents I’m well familiar with. Beautiful work, as usual.

  2. Charlotte says:

    Looking at these is delightful. I do rather wish they would now re-release Ann Macaffery’s Dragons of Pern series with covers by you. I could fantasise that the dragons might talk across the paper. What conversations they would be to listen into.

  3. dinahmow says:

    Looks like another trip to my local library with a “please reserve these books.”
    And, since I know how you feel about libraries…now that I can no longer afford to buy books as in my profligate working days, libraries are my lifeline! 🙂

  4. Cecilia Gabriela says:

    Your work is absolutely stunning!
    Do you have any idea when the books with the new covers will come out?

  5. Lauren says:

    These look amazing!

    Are The Inheritance and The Willful Princess & The Piebald Prince getting makeovers to match as well?

  6. Terra says:

    I love your dragons and I can imagine you doing the art in the illuminated Bibles and Book of Hours books if you lived in those times.

  7. Eon says:

    I’m excited! I have all the other ones and I’ve been waiting for this to be republished as this is the only series I haven’t read in the realm of the elderlings. I really love these covers.

  8. Nancy C. Smith says:

    No matter how much time passes between my browsings, I am always amazed and inspired by the elegant beauty of your artwork. Thank you for continuing to share it here. Some day I hope to visit your magical homeland.

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