Nothing is quite hitting the mark, so on to the next set of thumbnails!
Number 2 was my 'eureka moment' and my favorite out of this batch. Something about the idea of Phèdre framed by a bronze panel engraved with angelic wings and guarded by the bronze masked priests of Kushiel resonates visually. Is Phèdre a prisoner enchained or is she chained to the post willingly? Readers who know the story can appreciate the moment that inspired this scene (the scourging at the temple of Kushiel), while those who don't know it yet will (hopefully) start asking questions about her predicament, which is exactly the kind of interest I want in a cover!
My only qualm is that it may be too violent or suggestive for a cover that's to be displayed in the fantasy section of a bookstore. It's all going to depend on how gorey and/or suggestive I get with possible welts left by scourging (if any) and the figure's posing.
EDIT: After brainstorming more, I realized that even though I like number 2, it's just a little too violent and suggestive to work for a mainstream bookstore's cover. More exploration was needed!
EDIT 2: After much deliberation, I've boiled down the finalists to the following!
At last, we have the bottom thumbnail, which is still quite cool! The visual motifs of Kushiel's bronze mask and wings along with Phèdre's heterochromia lend themselves really well to a symbolic graphical cover. It's too simple, for my tastes, and this is a point where I make a personal decision as an artist to go with the more character-centric cover because that's the kind of stylistic and subject choice I'd like to be known for.
The Winner: The middle thumbnail for its clarity and character centric composition and for the story it tells at a glance. Next up, crafting the character and the painting.