VIII. The Path of Daggers
This may be my favourite piece of Sweet art for The Wheel of Time, showing Rand as a commander leading his troops into battle. There's a lot of great detail here, and especially on the back cover which shows the old statue that Rand is left pondering over at one point. A strong image.
The new cover, by Julie Bell, is quite good in the sense that the figures are fine and the picture is nice and colourful. But, no matter which way you look at it, it still looks like a pop video from the mid-1980s. You can almost hear the power ballad chorus kicking in.
Winner: Sweet's easiest victory here.
IX. Winter's Heart
Another army on the move here, but compared to the previous one this cover is weak. Perrin looks like a dwarf and the level of fine detail is severely lacking compared to the previous cover. Not Sweet's worst image, but definitely mediocre.
The new cover image, by Scott Fischer, isn't brilliant and without any context looks a bit weird (who's that tiny guy holding a blue ball down front?), but once you realise what it's supposed to be depicting, it's actually reasonable.
Winner: The new cover, though more down to Sweet's weakness than any greatness in the new image.
X. Crossroads of Twilight
Sweet's cover is yet more people on horses faffing around in the woods. Again a fairly poor image, most notably poor Tuon who looks like a kid in pyjamas.
Greg Ruth's artwork is a bit cartoony, but it's a really moody shot depicting Perrin's pivotal decision to choose between the hammer and the axe. Given a paucity of notable moments in the novel to cover, this is a good choice and works well.
Winner: The new cover, by some distance.
XI. Knife of Dreams
Dwarf-Perrin returns, this time consulting with a woman suffering from muscular spasms. Hmm.
It's Komarck. 'Nuff said.
Winner: The new cover. There isn't really any comparison at all.
XII. The Gathering Storm
This is easily the worst cover art put on a book from a reputable, big publishers in the 21st Century. It's staggering that Tor actually had the bravery to put a book so hideous on shelves, and even moreso that it got to #1 on the NYT bestseller lists. Staggeringly awful.
Old-skool fantasy artist Todd Lockwood gives us a strong image depicting the Seanchan assault on the White Tower and Egwene rising to lead the Aes Sedai in their moment of need. A bit old-fashioned, but still impressive.
Winner: The new cover art, unquestionably.
XIII. Towers of Midnight
Sweet comes back strong (well, stronger) for his most recent artwork which isn't totally embarrassing. Lacking in dynamism, but there's an element of foreboding as Mat, Thom and Noal set out on a dangerous and long-awaited quest. Unfortunately, the cover image doesn't match the description in the books (of a bare metal tower on a grassy plain with no trees nearby).
Raymond Swanland's new art is terrific, ferociously moody with a real sense of attitude and destiny coming from Perrin as he forges his new warhammer. A much more foreboding and appropriate image for the penultimate volume of the series.
Winner: The new cover, though Sweet's image isn't totally awful.
Sweet revisits his Eye of the World composition with a bit of a spin on it, which is an interesting idea but feels a bit derivative.
Jason Chan's Asian-flavoured image is evocative and intense, showing the moment Lan and Moiraine begin their twenty-year search for the Dragon Reborn. An iconic moment captured very well.
Winner: The new cover.
Full-Time Score: Sweet 4 - New Covers 10
Well, there you go. Sweet put up a stronger struggle than I was expecting, but ultimately the new covers are mostly fresher and more modern. So good job to Tor. However, I'm not sold on their use of borders and cover fonts, which take up a third of the cover image. It'll be interesting to see if they keep that design when they reprint the physical books with new covers some time after A Memory of Light is published.