Athanor is a city built in winding walkways and twisting viaducts, mirroring the mazelike structures of the seed pod skeletons that inspired its creator, Gemmell Award-winner Darius Hinks. For The Ingenious, his first novel set outside the universe of Warhammer 40K, Hinks has imagined a metropolis whose structure mirrors its origins: birthed by alchemy, Athanor was literally grown from a skeleton of wire.
This sort of thing is a gift to cover designers, so when it came time to choose an artist to sum up The Ingenious in a single image, Angry Robot Publisher Marc Gascoigne knew exactly who to turn to: John Coulthart, who created one of the most striking covers of last year for Jeannette Ng’s bewitching Under the Pendulum Sun.
“[This] cover, depicting the oddly shifting, almost magical streets of Athanor, was tailor-made for John Coulthart,” said Gascoigne, who served as art director for the project. “I’ve worked with him for a decade now, and come to know what gets him excited, so it was the work of moments to suggest a cover that channelled half-remembered 1970s fantasy artists like Ian Miller, James Cawthorn, and Philippe Druillet. That was the starting point, but as always, Mr C. added so much more, creating the perfect summation of the dark and arcane magic in this novel.”
See the cover below the official summary, then keep reading more the artist’s perspective.
Thousands of years ago, the city of Athanor was set adrift in time and space by alchemists called the “Curious Men.” Ever since, it has accumulated cultures, citizens and species into a vast, unmappable metropolis.
Isten and her gang of half-starved political exiles live off petty crime and gangland warfare in Athanor’s seediest alleys. Though they dream of returning home to lead a glorious revolution, Isten’s downward spiral drags them into a mire of addiction and violence. Isten must find a way to save the exiles and herself if they are ever to build a better, fairer world for the people of their distant homeland.
Gorgeous, isn’t it? If you’d like to know more about how the image came to be, here’s Coulthart’s in-depth take:
“The Middle Eastern or Arabian styling of this cover is partly a result of suggestions in the brief,” Coulthart said. “but the style also connects to the alchemical theme—the words alchemy and athanor being derived from Arabic. Not all the architecture is obviously Arabian; most of the buildings are based on the wooden houses of Istanbul, which have long fascinated me for being unlike anything you see either to the East or West of Turkey. They don’t have these domes, however, or the twisted chimneys, which push the design towards the fantastic.
“Of the three artists that Marc mentioned, Ian Miller is the predominant influence here. Before starting work I sat down with all my Miller books and steeped myself in his line-work for a while. The end result isn’t really Milleresque—his work is inimitable, after all—but it’s informed by his spirit.
“The background is more Arabian styling, being partly based on an Islamic pattern. I wanted something that could incorporate alchemical symbols and also be taken to be an ingenious design—hence the interwoven paths. After spending several days working on a background that was going to be mostly hidden, I seemed to be making more work for myself than was necessary (a common fault, as it happens). All the alchemical symbols are genuine ones, and the title lettering is my adaptation of an Arabian-flavored font, with a few adjustments to make it unique.”