Evolution of a Cover: The Wicked King by Holly Black

by Karina Granda, Senior Designer

I am so thrilled with all the buzz around the cover for The Wicked King! Especially since the second book in a series can be more challenging than the first—and this one was no exception.

We were all smitten with The Cruel Prince, so the challenge was coming up with a cover that looked like part of the series, but could also stand out on it’s own. So when Holly told us this book would have an underwater element, we were excited, but also very aware of the challenge ahead. How could we sink the crown, while still maintaining a bright white, crisp feel for the series?

Holly also let us know that there is only one crown in the series, so we would not play with different designs and color. So how do we make the same crown feel new all over again?

Our amazing cover artist, Sean Freeman, was up to the challenge!

We do not land this in one try:


This image was beautiful, but quiet. We were looking for some energy and excitement!  Also, we’d lost our crisp white background entirely, so it was starting to feel too different from The Cruel Prince.


Adding a butterfly and a white highlight did not quite do the trick either. Though we did want a creepy crawler on this one too—like the beetle on The Cruel Prince!

So I started looking at A LOT of images of water.


And it became clear that to bring some energy to this cover, what we needed was a splash! What if instead of a slow drown, the crown was plunged into the water?


And suddenly we felt like we were getting somewhere.


Just a few more turns of the crown… a little bigger and a little smaller…a little more or less gold... and A LOT more splash…


And finally we nailed it!


You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.