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Subterranean Press recently released a special edition of Kushiel's Dart (which is already sold out) featuring new art by Tran Nguyen. Being a fan of Tran's already, I was ecstatic to see one of my favorite books illustrated by one of my favorite artists! As an artist endeavoring to create art for this world, I thought I'd share my thoughts on these illustrations for my own education (and for other curious minds).
First off, that main cover image. What a risky move it was to portray Phèdre without relying on her iconic tattoo or eye coloration! The cover relies on atmosphere dripping in sensuality and a dreamlike quality, which suits those moments of divinity that mark the lives of the characters of Kushiel's Dart during their most trying times. The hint of an angelic figure lifting Phèdre up perfectly plays on her connection to the divine. The faint silhouette of a city on the bottom right also does well to place the narrative in a picturesque medieval land.
My only critique would be that the image doesn't seem to crop very well to the front cover, in my opinion. I would have liked to see more of a hint of wing on the front cover in the corner, since it's such a telling detail. These are just minor complaints, however, as the whole cover is so dreamy and gorgeous! It's also a perfect supplement to the previous cover art by John Jude Palencar, Tran's art being a more feminine subtle rendition similar to his.
As for the new interior art, it's wonderful to see Joscelin portrayed, especially! He's a character that never seems to get as much lime light as other characters when it comes to interpretations. Tran's portrayal of him is spot on to my mind's eye, though I would have liked to have seen more attention paid to his iconic twin vambraces, which I always envision as metal instead of leather, an important detail to the lore of the novel. Even still, the simplicity of the composition is elegant and beautiful.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Melisande and Phedre adorned in their masquerade attire for the Longest Night, an image many fans (including myself) have been waiting for! Melisande's imposing figure in the composition clasping Phèdre's with the leash wrapping around them both is perfection and I love the choice of physical features for both characters. Melisande reminds me of Monica Bellucci, who I always cast as Melisande in my headcannon.
I would have liked to have seen Phedre with a more elated expression in this piece to show Melisande's power over her. I also would have enjoyed seeing them with their bird themed masks, but the presence of the masks may have distracted from their gorgeous facial features. I'm not a fan of the night gown style for Phèdre's diamond studded sheer dress either, but I can understand the need for it to keep the interior art PG.
All in all, I hope Tran starts selling prints soon! I know I'm not the only one who would love collecting these images. I'm always happy to see more official Kushiel's Legacy art, especially when it's this gorgeous!
What do you all think of these new illustrations of our favorite Kushiel characters? Share in comments!