Author Terry Goodkind — best known for the Sword of Truth series - recently came out with some harsh criticism of the cover for his latest fantasy novel, Shroud of Eternity, resulting in backlash from the artist and others in the scifi and fantasy communities. Now, Goodkind is saying that his problem with the cover was sexism all along.
Earlier this week, Goodkind wrote a post on Facebook calling Shroud of Eternity "a great book with a very bad cover. Laughably bad," inviting readers to share their thoughts in a poll. He later apologised to cover artist Bastien Lecouffe Deharme in a follow-up post, though Deharme said he was never contacted by Goodkind personally nor does he plan on working with the author again. Now, after posting a video of his dog licking the book cover, Goodkind has added a new layer to his previous criticism. The author told io9 he and his agent had objected to the cover upon release because the protagonist's portrayal was too sexist and didn't match the character in-book.
The entire cover for Shroud of Eternity.Image: Tor Books
"I write stories centered around strong female characters. I objected to the sexist cover my publisher commissioned for this book," Goodkind told io9. "Completely disregarding the story, they apparently told the artist to paint a sexist fantasy cover like those that appeared on dime paperback fantasy magazines, in the '70s. The artist is obviously talented in that he did an admirable job of recreating that hackneyed look."
Specifically, Goodkind said he took issue with protagonist Nicci's boots (which were actually the model's), adding: "Is it too much to ask that my female characters not be portrayed as hiking for miles in thigh-high, heeled boots?"
I followed up with Derharme, who said this was the first time he'd heard any claims of sexism regarding the book cover, from Goodkind or anyone else. On the contrary, he said Tor Books specifically asked him to avoid typical sexist fantasy tropes when designing the cover. After reading the part of the book sent to him by the art director, as well as the character description provided, Deharme said he chose to focus on Nicci's strength. He gave her practical armour and didn't put the focus on the traditionally exploited parts of the female body.
"Sexism is a topic has been put in front of the news in front of everything recently. For good reason, because we live in a society where these problems need to be addressed," Deharme told us. "Tor Books is very aware of that."
Goodkind, however, asserts Delharme never read a page of his work. "Too bad that he doesn't want to actually read the manuscript, or at least a character description, and make a cover to properly reflect the true nature of the book and prove that he can do a classy, modern cover that properly fits the book," Goodkind said. "The publisher may have crippled his ability by asking him to do this kind of inappropriate, sexist cover for a book about strong women of great integrity."
Goodkind gave no indication of his future with Tor Books (we previously reached out to the publisher for comment, but still have not heard back), but he did say he plans on working with other artists for future installments of Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles series, now that Deharme is no longer working with the author.