So something that pops up in fantasy novels fairly regularly are maps, Middle Earth, Westeros, Adro, the Banished Land, etc, personally maps are a big selling point for me. The first thing I do, even before reading the blurb or checking my wallet, is check for a map. You should never judge a book by its cover, but I will forever judge them on their maps.
Being a big fan of geography, geopolitics and maps in general I can’t get enough of a unique new landscape. When they’re done well they help me visualise the landscape and distance covered by characters. If they’re done very well I can imagine the evolution of the landscape. For example the map of Westeros feels extremely well thought out.
For example the area known as the Fingers, to the north east of The Eyrie, shows realistic coastal degradation. Along with the Iron Islands, the kingdom ruled by the Greyjoys, are evident remains of either a larger island or peninsula. Or the evident sub continent of Dorne having pushed up against the continent of Westeros, clearly shown by the mountain range that forms the natural border with the Reach. I could go on for days about the accuracies of this map. But instead I will focus on others.
One of the first fantasy series that I read was the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (I still have to check Google to make sure I’m spelling that right) had, to my mind at the time, an amazing map. Now though I can see it’s shortcomings and inaccuracies. Thankfully my geography teacher at school also loved fantasy and their maps and often moaned about Alagaesia (and I know that’s not the correct spelling the ‘e’ is meant to have one of those sideways colons on it, I have no idea how to find that).
This map gives me a headache. Somehow the Hadarac Desert manages to expand its edges all the way from the Beor Mountains to the Du Weldenvarden. How? I don’t know. Unless Weldenvarden was a tropical rainforest like it seen in the real world. Tropical rainforests sit either side of the deserts that dominate central Africa, due to the Equator being too hot to supply sufficient water to support such a dense population of life.
Like how the Amazon rainforest is situated in the Tropic of Cancer in Brazil along with the Congo in Central Africa and the Gondwana rainforest in northern Australia. Thats my big problem with that map. Onto a good one?
Adro from the Powder Mage Trilogy is one of my favourite maps. I’m not entirely sure if it could realistically exist, surrounded in a mountain chain as it. My thinking is that it probably sits in a mostly dormant volcanic caldera of a supervolcano. Plus it comes with a city map! I love city maps! Especially as this one makes sense. The Central Business District (CBD) is located in the centre of the city, in the Old City, as most European cities are. Plus the urban sprawl of the New City and High Talien. My only very minor complaint is that of the grid system in use within the city of Adopest. Unlike the city’s of London and Paris which are the obvious influences on Adopest they suffer from far more random street layout, in truth this is just nitpicking on my behalf.
I will most likely do a second post on this subject but now I will focus on the second half of this post.
Inkarnate is a fantasy/D&D map creator for those of us with no artistic skill, thats me. Simply apply to the beta, don’t expect to be spammed with emails or anything, and then start experimenting. I managed to learn how to use it in about half an hour. Below are maps I have made before, I’ll let them do the talking.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post