Imagine a world in which falling stars must be rescued so their light can continue to keep sinister creatures at bay. The Star Shepherd, by Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connolly immerses young readers in this darkly gorgeous fairy tale land. We’re thrilled to reveal the beautiful cover, two evocative illustrations, and an excerpt from The Star Shepherd, which hits B&N bookshelves this September. Haring and Connolly were also kind enough to share some of the story behind the book and the cover design process.
About the Book and the Cover Process:
DAN: The Star Shepherd was inspired by my children and my love for the stars. I wanted to create a story that would sort of be a bedtime fairy tale for them. I love the story MarcyKate and I were able to tell. For the cover we wanted to make something that would really stand out, but that also would kind of hearken back to classic fairy tale collections. Working with the team at Sourcebooks, we came up with a design we liked, but weren’t sure about the background. I wanted it to feel magical, so as a last minute change I did a version with the vines and stars in the background. Everyone seemed to respond well to it, so after a few refinement passes we ended up with the final cover.
MARCYKATE: I’ve been fortunate to have some great covers so far, but I must admit this one is my all-time favorite. Dan’s artwork is incredible and mysterious and lovely. And all those wonderful stars! (Also, FOIL. All that gray will be shiny awesome foil on the final product!) It’s been fascinating to see it go through so many iterations from first concept and how the design has evolved. It isn’t something I usually get to see, and the result is gorgeous!
DAN: I love the way the cover turned out. The Sourcebooks team was amazing to work with, and from the beginning we had the same vision for the cover. I’m thrilled with it and can’t wait for everyone to see it.
About the Illustrations:
DAN: The illustration of Kyro was actually the first one I did for the book. I’d been experimenting a bit with tools and the look I wanted to go for, and it all sort of worked out for this image. It used a lot of ink!
DAN: I’d done sketches, but this was the first time I’d really fleshed out what the Vissla would look like. I tried to go for something sinister, but unique as well.
An Exclusive Excerpt From Chapter 1 of The Star Shepherd by Dan Haring and MarcyKate Connolly:
He angled toward the crater and knelt down to scoop up the star. Awe filled him. His mother came from a line of Star Shepherds and she used to tell him bedtime stories. His favorite ones were about the history of the stars. Hung from hooks fastened to the sky centuries ago by the Seven Elders, the stars eventually wore out and fell. When the world first formed, the night was filled with unspeakable horrors that thrived in the darkness. The Seven Elders made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their hearts to the sky in the form of the seven Elder Stars. They shone brightly, creating a wide net of light with beams connecting star to star, pushing the evil back into the dark corners of the world where the light could not touch them. As the people grew in number, many made the same offering, until the sky was filled with thousands of gleaming stars. But the art of giving one’s heart to the sky and the secret technology of the Seven Elders died out after many years. Though all of the stars were important, the Elder Stars were the strongest. As long as they hung, the world would never succumb to darkness again.
Now a star was resting in Kyro’s hands. The soft glow pulsed, and for a moment something stirred inside him. He must return it to the skies. Here on the ground, fallen stars were a long way from the Elders’ magic, and when the sun rose it would sever their connection to that magic and they’d sputter out.
With the burlap case nestled in his arms, he made his way back to the watchtower more cautiously than the journey through the woods. If he dropped such precious cargo, his father would never trust him again.
But when Cypher began to growl, his sharp terrier ears flattened back, Kyro came to a stop. The shadows were deep in this part of the woods. The trees’ branches, always reaching toward the sky, seemed like they had wrapped the night itself around their trunks.
“What is it, boy?” Kyro peered at the forest. Gooseflesh broke out on his arms. The air had grown colder since he first set out. It felt like the middle of the night, but he didn’t think he’d been away that long.
He ignored the fear breathing down his neck, and started home again. With every step, the chill deepened. Soon his breath was turning to frost on the air. He glanced at the clouds. The stars peeked through here and there, but they didn’t seem to threaten a storm.
Uneasiness slid over his shoulders like a cold hand. His mother’s words, long gone, still rang in his ears: the stars held back horrible creatures that lived in the shadows.
Kyro knew not everyone believed the stories of the Star Shepherds but Kyro’s mother had insisted they were real. She had been so certain, that he couldn’t help believing too.
“Let’s go, Cypher.” Kyro quickened his pace. The trees teemed with more shadows than ever before. From the corner of his eyes, the darkness crept over his field of vision. The shadows began to take shape up ahead. Something tall and dark and, most of all, cold.
The figure moved toward Kyro, the ground frosting over as it passed. Without thinking, Kyro held up the star like a shield, the light of the molten orb inside seeping out through a jagged tear in its case. The shadow reared and backed away, leaving nothing but ice and darkness in its wake.
Kyro shivered and his dog whined at his side. He patted Cypher on the head, his heart pounding in his chest. His mother had given names to dark creatures who would wish him harm: vissla, wraiths of shadow whose desire was to extinguish all the light in the universe; the spider-like vritrax; scaly zintrins, and many others, all bent on darkening the world. They had haunted his dreams when he was little. Maybe when this star fell, a vissla had escaped. All the more reason to get it back in the sky quickly. “Let’s hope we never see anything like that again,” he said to Cypher, who still growled in the direction the shadow had gone. Kyro clutched the star more tightly to his chest.
I better not tell Father, Kyro thought. If I do, he’ll use it as an excuse to never let me retrieve a star again.
The Star Shepherd will be on B&N bookshelves September 10.