I’m constantly surprised when I come across translated books with covers that are so vastly different from one another, you’d hardly think they’re of the same book. It particularly baffles me when the covers imply very different genres. That’s what happened with The Archived by Victoria Schwab.
In German it’s been translated to Das Mädchen, das Geschichten fängt, which means, The girl who catches (hi)stories. Geschichten can mean histories or stories but on a book cover, I don’t think the actual definition is immediately clear to a first time viewer. On technicality, the German title literally means, The girl who catches histories.
Both designs are gorgeous. I could stare at both of them for a long time and still not get bored. Thankfully I did manage to tear my eyes from the book cover when I read The Archived earlier this year.
US Book Cover
The US book cover, I find, is hauntingly beautiful. I like the use of just two colours. The blue is very strong, as it plays with contrasting hues to bring out the features of the girl’s face. As real she looks, the detachment of the face from the rest of a body together with the blue skin make her look like she’s dead — a ghostly figure. At the same time, she looks very much alive because of the attentiveness in her eye. Not alive, yet not quite dead. Disturbing, I admit but very intriguing.
The bronze key above the head, just below the title looks old and elaborate, which I think is very fitting in conjunction with an archive. Archives house old things, so this old key thoroughly evokes curiosity in me. Something about it is significant and I just had to know what it was when I first came across The Archived.
If you look really closely, you’ll be able to see brick walls behind the girl. They form a passageway that basically enclose her and lead right into the dark. I think it’s genius how many layers have been incorporated into that cover design!
German Book Cover
The German book cover embodies exuberance to me. The birds are colourfully vibrant against the light background. The handwritten type of the title makes it feel more personal. In a way, it already draws me in, expecting me to be able to connect with the narrator/protagonist.
This cover offers such a strange contrast to the US cover because it points to life more than to death. Although, come to think of it, maybe the bare branches are supposed to show us that these birds are perched on a dead tree. Life and death do grace the German cover after all but I didn’t notice that without scrutiny.
US Book Cover
If I look at the US cover, I expect to read a paranormal story or horror. In the very least, The Archived has to be fantasy based on that cover design.
German Book Cover
One glance at it, and I think literary fiction. The design looks so clean and polished and somehow a girl chasing histories set against birds and dead trees makes me think there has to be a much deeper meaning to all of this.
Take a look at the Goodreads shelf of newly released literary fiction books. I dare you to tell me Das Mädchen, das Geschichten fängt doesn’t belong there. I’m convinced it fits squarely amidst all those book covers.
This time round, the US book cover completely won me over. As much as I love the German book cover aesthetically, the design doesn’t reflect the story contained within the book. The Archived isn’t meant to be a work of literary fiction. It is fantasy.
We could debate the finer details of whether it is paranormal fantasy or urban fantasy but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. The US cover does a good job of showing viewers what the book is about. The German cover completely fails to do that. In fact, it is rather misleading.
I took a look at some of the German book reviews on Goodreads and saw that a number of readers were surprised when they read the story. Based on the book cover, they weren’t prepared at all for the darker undertones in The Archived. Those reviews confirmed my opinion that it’s a pretty misleading cover.
In contrast, the US cover managed to accurately present important elements of The Archived in a manner that is very eye-catching. I seriously wonder what on earth the German redesign was for. At least, like I said, it is gorgeous.