Today, Scholastic and Bloomsbury released 3 covers for the upcoming seventh Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I'm psyched. I'm also, for the last time as a fan of this series, seriously scratching my head about what these covers do (or don't) reveal about the book, which is set to be released on July 21, 2007. The American editor says that he sobbed all the way through it. For something so emotionally affecting, and expected to be quite grim, this cover is surprisingly bright - a sky gilded by late-afternoon sunlight, a seemingly hopeful or perhaps defiant gesture by the hero...
At the right is Mary Grandpre's full cover art for the standard, US edition of the book. Click on it to see a larger version. Once you see the whole spread, things become a bit clearer. Harry and Voldemort seem to be meeting, perhaps for a climactic confrontation. What is this place in the background? My guess is Godric's Hollow, the place where Harry's parents were killed. Evidence in favor of that guess is the hint of ruins (the Potters' house was destroyed when Voldemort killed them). Plus, the place just generally looks like a hollow, and one with some history (maybe those shapes in the background are grave markers). On the other hand, it could also be some kind of stadium, in which case Harry and Voldemort are having some kind of grudge match. Does it look perhaps like You-Know-Who is trying to make something fall down, while Harry is trying to keep it up?
Then there's the cover for the UK adult edition. It shows an amulet with a snake design on it. I don't think it takes much imagination to guess this is one of those horcruxes that Harry is supposed to destroy because they contain pieces of Voldemort's soul. Once they're all gone, Voldemort will be mortal again, and Harry can finish him off for good and all. Could this be the last horcrux? Could the "S" stand for Slytherin?
Finally, and to me most interestingly, here is the cover of the UK children's edition. Click on it to see a larger image. The inside of the front flap shows Harry's horcrux, a ghostly stag that represents Harry's father. The inside of the back flap shows what may be another version of the horcrux shown on the UK adult cover. The back cover is a beautiful picture of Hogwarts as seen by bright moonlight.
But the most fascinating part is the front cover, in which Ron, Hermione, and Harry appear to be going down some kind of chute full of gold and jewels. This is an unexpectedly bright and almost humorous picture for what many people expect to be the darkest book in the series. Whoever drew Ron's face must have taken a cue from Rupert Grint's portrayal of the Weasley boy - frightened but in a vaguely comical way. Hermione looks like she's lunging for someone's throat; where did she get the wound on her arm? And of course, coming at you like Superman is a tattered and slightly wounded Harry, looking very focused.
But who or what is that riding on Harry's back? You can see one hand gripping Harry's shoulder, and another holding a sword aloft; Gryffindor's sword? And just visible behind Harry's head is a bit of long, white hair. My first thought was "Dobby the Avenging House-Elf!" But then I thought...hmmm. Could this be Dumbledore coming back?