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Echoes in the Cavern

The author says:

Book two in the middle grade Young Marian series. Deep in the serpentine caves beneath Nottingham, a plot unravels, its sinister tendrils threatening to ensnare Marian’s father in dark accusations of treachery. With her home under a blanket of suspicion and the long shadow of Prince John looming over them, fourteen year old Marian and her best friend Robin seek to uncover the true culprit behind the mysterious theft of the crown’s gold. Her quest to catch the thief and prove her father’s innocence leads Marian on a chase through the heart of Sherwood Forest to the bowels of Nottingham Castle. Events unfold rapidly and the villainous Lord Ranulf hovers ever in the background, whispers and lies at the ready. As he weaves his web of deceit, Marian begins to worry that her own impulsive actions may play a part in destroying her father and everything she loves.



Nathan says:

As this is the second volume in the series, I looked up the first one to see what elements were already established for branding.  My comments are divided into those specifically for Echoes in the Cavern, and for the series as a whole:


Comments specifically about Echoes in the Cavern:

It’s very professionally done.  I think the only things I would toy with changing are:

  1. Somehow, I don’t think the lighter color behind the title works as well.  Maybe it calls attention to the lack of illustration up there; I dunno.
  2. The title seems marginally harder to read.  That could be because of the overlap between E and C, confusing the order in which the words are to be read.  Again, I dunno.

Comments about the series branding:

I like all of your elements.  I wish the titles were larger (after all, it’s not like you’d be obscuring the illustration behind the title — it’s just dead space), and I especially wish your byline were larger.  Let your fans know it’s another Mandy Webster book!

Any other comments?


  1. I love both of your covers. Honest. I love them.

    Silhouettes that are not abused in fiction are very rare and for that I salute you!

    It is true, the titles could be larger if Young Marion was moved up. Useful in thumbnails at least.

    Maybe a hint of a darker shadow under the ‘E’ would help with the legibility of those two letters.

    Still, those are minor tweaks. These are really good!

  2. I do like the covers, but…

    I always have a problem with silhouettes, though I have to admit these are handled very nicely. I think they would work better, however, if they were darker. This is especially true of the current book. Although the art is stylized, you have still allowed for atmospheric perspective as objects recede into the distance. Since the figures are in the near foreground, they should be the darkest objects. But the tree trunks in Echoes are darker than the figure on the horse. This gives the effect of the silhouette looking more like a hole in the artwork than a solid object in the foreground.

  3. The artwork is great, but I wish it were bigger. The thing that grabs my eye ends up being the blank space behind the title just because it’s so big.

  4. Thanks! That is funny – I actually started out with the titles bigger, and then I worried that they were too close to the edge so I shrunk them down a bit.

    For the silhouettes, I had gone with the lightest colour in the gradient behind the title, but I guess I should pick up the darker colour up top.

    1. The problem isn’t that the title is too big, just that there’s a lot of blank space up there in general, especially on the top and sides.

  5. Truly beautiful covers.

    The only thing that’s bothering me is the blurry, sort line of the blank space under the title. The corresponding line of the space under the byline is sharp. All of the other lines in the illustration are sharp, save for the glow of the silhouettes, so the blurry transition from the illustration to the blank space doesn’t really fit with the rest.

  6. There’s a couple of reasons that the silhouette isn’t quite working. Firstly, I think you need to make it bigger. Ferns can be pretty huge, I know, but the ones just behind the horse make figure and rider look out of proportion. And in any case I think the figure/s could stand to dominate the illustration more. While it’s pretty behind them, there’s nothing of interest really going on so the interesting element – the character – should be emphasised more, I think, with greater size.

    Secondly the horse kind of looks like it’s wading through mud. I’d pull the silhouette up a bit so he appears to be walking on the ground more than through it!

    Get rid of the glow around the silhouette. It doesn’t make any sense for a silhouette to glow and it undermines the otherwise slick look of the cover. I can see you want the figure to stand out against the background I think you need to darkern the silhouette cover rather than lighten underneath her. And, as I say, make her and the horse bigger. Scaling her up should put her head against the paler blue part of the background anyway, giving more contrast.

    Those are my only technical points, though I’d second what others have said. Like Catie said, the blurry transition between illustration and title space is kind of niggling.

    I’d also say that this second cover lacks the intrigue of the first and I’d be far less inclined to be grabbed by it. The first is more atmospheric because of the slightly darker forest, but also because there’s some tension in the figure. She’s moving, her hair is flying out a bit. She’s turned away from us, which even in silhouette feels intriguing.

    The second illustration looks like a perfectly pleasant day with a relaxed girl – a nice image to look at, but not something that makes me keen to know what’s happening. If the figure was indicating some drama – was riding hard, or hunched and nervous, glancing back, or something – the book cover would become much more attention grabbing.

    From the sounds of it, these are books with feature plot and mystery and secrets. IT could be nice to get more of a sense of that atmosphere and drama in the cover. It’s for a younger demographic, but look at the Lady Grace Mystery covers: they’ve always got the figure looking like she’s in the middle of some drama or tension, and they make the books look really exciting!

  7. Thanks so much everyone!

    Because I am nothing if not agreeable, I:

    1. increased the size of the title to fill the empty space at the top
    2. darkened the silhouettes and got rid of most of the glow (I left a teensy weensy bit of glow)
    3. increased the size of the silhouette on book 2
    4. raised the horse up out of the mud
    5. cropped the blurry line at the top of the main image
    6. then, although no one mentioned it, I decided I should probably square off the bottom too
    7. increased the size of the byline
    8. darkened the shadow behind the letters to make ‘Echoes’ easier to read
    9. slightly darkened the image in the background of the second to add a bit of moodiness

    You can see the results here (click through to see them larger)

    I think that about covers it! 😛

    Let me know if this works better for you! Thanks again!

    Kata, I hear what you are saying about the image and the tension. These are both assembled with purchased stock images so I was somewhat limited in what I was able to do. I was lucky enough to find several stock images of forest illustrations by the same artist so I bought a few for consistency between the books, but yes, they are a bit bright. I tried to darken the second one with going too drab.

    1. I think you’ve done a fantastic job. These started off very good, but you’ve made them even better.

      Ah, yes, that’s the problem with stock imagery! And I think you’re wise to stick to a consistent style. I’d still have a bit of a play with the contrast of the scenery in the second one – if you’re using Photoshop, maybe just use the magic wand tool to select the bit of sky and use the levels to brighten it. It’s gone a bit muddy at present, the whole things just needs that touch more contrast to make the image more striking.

      I think you’ve got the silhouette at a good size now. I’d personally move it a bit to the left to fill out the negative space created by the branches a bit more. Again, I think it will help the character dominate the cover better. The more powerfully you can frame her, the less it matters that we can’t read much in her stance. If the framing of the illustration tells us she’s interesting, we’ll find her interesting and read more into her!

      Another niggling point – I’d be tempted to try bringing more blue into the shade you’ve chosen for this book’s frame/silhouette/background. I find this particular shade of teal sits a bit dead on paper/digitally. I usually avoid this range myself. It might also be nice to differentiate the look from the first book too. The branding is really strong, I think you can get away with giving each book cover more of its own individual flavour by varying the dominant shade more.

      So this basically:

  8. Thanks Kata!
    The blue is a good choice – especially because the next book in the series involves water so I might want to go with more of a teal there (although I know what you mean about how it can be a bit muddy).

    I tweaked the colour and also brightened up the background picture, while adding some shading at the edges for a bit of drama. I moved her over a bit, but I didn’t want her dead centre.

    I left the newest version, as well as the one from last night, at the same link for anyone who wants to take a look:

    Thanks so much again for all your input everyone. I was pretty happy with them before, but now I’m even happier! 🙂

    1. That looks great to me. I agree about not putting her dead centre, and I think your lighting and composition now work really hard to lend the cover a look of depth and intrigue.

      These covers look smart and confident, and I think will do their job in attracting the right readers.

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