How publishers in different countries present our Urban Fantasy heroines

I’ve just started “Samantha Watkins: Chronicles of an Extraordinary Ordinary Life (Samantha Watkins #1)” by Aurélie Venem. This tale of a young, loner, school-librarian, in love with books and antique weapons, who has her life transformed by a chance encounter with a vampire, was originally written in French. I’ve liked what I’ve read so far, so I went to look for the rest of the series and found that they had not yet been translated into English.

During this search, I realised that the book covers for the French editions were quite different in style and intent than the English ones. This turned out also to be true for the German translation.

In the covers above the English version is on the left. It shows a manor house in the background (which is consistent with the English text) and a woman with a sort of adult Nancy Drew look.

The French cover is in the middle. It’s the original and it shows a French Chateau in the background while the woman is much more vampish and sexually confident than the English version. It also carries the subtitle “Pas de Choix”  or “No Choice” which is much more relevant than the over-long English version.

The German version, on the right, shows a German Schlöss in the background and a woman with pale skin, tied-back hair and a broad forehead (again consistent with the text) who looks quite German middle-class intellectual. It also carries the subtitle “Keine Wahl” or “No Choice”.

This made me curious to see how other Urban Fantasy heroines were presented in France and Germany. I wondered if the style differences were just different interpretations of the book or if they were generic to that market. So, I looked at three other heroines: Meg Corben from Anne Bishop, Kitty Norville from Carrie Vaughn and Kate Daniels from Ilona Andrews.

The US Anne Bishop covers stand out from the crowd. I was surprised to see that the artwork wasn’t picked up in France and Germany. True, I’ve seen questions about why Meg’s hair is that colour, but it’s consistent with the plot. The French one reads more like a romance than anything else. Given how often Meg’s skin has been razored, the bare shoulder look seems unlikely. The German one is moody, beautifully put together and has some of Meg’s hair dyed red. I don’t understand what all the metal work is there for.

The Kitty Norville covers, interested me, as I’ve always disliked the American covers because they seem under-produced to me. Still, they’re better than the French one (in the middle) where blonde-haired Kitty shows up with dark hair and weird eyes. In Germany, the series is called “Midnight Hour” – keeping the English the way the Germans sometimes do and using the same design for every book in the series but using different colour-ways. Looks like no-one really wants to spend money on Kitty art, regardless of country.

The US Kate Daniels book covers always look to me like something done as a high school project by someone with access only to very basic software. They remind me of very cheap video games. It seems the French and Germans stand united on Kate, has the used the same model for her, although the French lead with her name while the Germans have come up with a new title for the series: “Stadt der Finsternis” which means “City of Darkness”. I find that a very strange way to describe Atlanta, even when the magic is up.

Overall, I’m left with two conclusions: the differences in covers are driven by a generic view of what Urban Fantasy covers should look like in that country and the French and Germans like their Urban Fantasy heroines to have dark hair and good cheekbones.

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