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View Full Version : Maps in books (and author worldbuilding skills)



Richardb
08-30-2007, 11:49 AM
Surely many of us are also fantasy readers (an assumption, sure, but I bet it is a fairly good one).

What author presents the best maps in his books?

Who does the best job of world building, creating a vibrant, interesting, and fully realized world?

As to maps, most maps in books need to be simple due to limitations on the size and (often) black and white nature of book maps. I always liked David Eddings maps, simple, but often with a more detailed snippet at the start of a chapter. Raymond Feist books present clean and effective maps, as do Robert Jordan's and George RR Martin. I could go on, but maybe later... ;)

As for actual world building, I have to give the hat tip to Robert Jordan. Love him or hate him, he has clearly created a world with well defined cultures, politics, demographics, etc. I suppose have a dozen 700 page books to work with does not hurt!

torstan
08-30-2007, 11:55 AM
It's been a while since I picked up the books so I can't comment on the maps but I'd definitely say that George RR Martin has my vote for world building. As for maps, I always had a soft spot for Earthsea - so many islands....

Richardb
08-30-2007, 12:35 PM
It's been a while since I picked up the books so I can't comment on the maps but I'd definitely say that George RR Martin has my vote for world building. As for maps, I always had a soft spot for Earthsea - so many islands....

Hmm... I've always seen Martin as more of a character writer, the cultures of the world and its geography seem to be left rather vague. Also, he has issues with his maps and what is in the books. Example, there is a statement about being 10,000 leagues from the wall at one point. 30,000 miles? Small nit, but George seems to struggle with determining the size of things and consistency.
More than makes up for this with his amazing characterization, great plot, and solid writing skills though!

torstan
08-30-2007, 12:51 PM
Fair enough. I haven't read them for a while so I'm only going on a 4 year old impression. I have a clear mental image of his world, which doesn't necessarily equate to clear world building skills. Perhaps it was due to the vagueness you mention - it allows the reader to extrapolate the details?

Another nice example of providing a clear concept of a world is Guy Gavriel Kay in A Song for Arbonne. He did a good job of giving his world (just 4 nations) a clear character and a sense of reality. Again, I can't say anything about the actual accuracy of his world, but it gave the impression of being real and detailed.

Richardb
08-30-2007, 01:01 PM
Believe me, I'm not knocking Martin, or dismissing your thought. I think Martin has ended up with a world that we do fill in a lot of details ourselves, making it very rich. I also think his exceptional characterization gives us some ability to make determinations about culture and peoples. So we do find ourselves with a feeling of a fairly well realized world.
Some authors just 'get there' and others really seem to work at it. Worse yet are those that mistake world building for story telling!

Ishmayl
08-30-2007, 02:26 PM
Though I don't particularly like the books or his writing style, Terry Brooks (Shannara stuff) has some really nice maps in his books. Robert Jordan's are neat, too, but with such a large world, I could use smaller detailed maps over large world maps.

thebax2k
08-30-2007, 02:47 PM
Although they are children's books, I would nominate the Dinotopia series by James Gurney for being best able to use maps to realize a fantasy world. His maps of the land and waterfall city are a joy to behold--vibrant, colorful and very well executed.

Richardb
08-30-2007, 04:02 PM
Though I don't particularly like the books or his writing style, Terry Brooks (Shannara stuff) has some really nice maps in his books. Robert Jordan's are neat, too, but with such a large world, I could use smaller detailed maps over large world maps.

I'll second Terry Brooks. Especially the newer hardbacks with the nice color maps. My only gripe is with one book (don't remember which) where they put fake blood stains on the map. Cheesy. I did that on one of my first maps in the 7th grade... used food coloring. It was cheesy then, and is more so now.

Venardhi
09-08-2007, 06:58 PM
Believe me, I'm not knocking Martin, or dismissing your thought. I think Martin has ended up with a world that we do fill in a lot of details ourselves, making it very rich. I also think his exceptional characterization gives us some ability to make determinations about culture and peoples. So we do find ourselves with a feeling of a fairly well realized world.
Some authors just 'get there' and others really seem to work at it. Worse yet are those that mistake world building for story telling!
Martin's maps certainly leave something to be desired. I'm actually considering doing my own version of the map of Westeros at some point. However I feel his world building is amazing for what it says and clever for what it leaves up to the reader. We have Westeros, which has a rich history and well developed culture and then the mysterious free cities that he slowly reveals through Daenerys (and later, Arya). The Dothraki and other cultures across the narrow sea are exotic and yet realistic without seeming to just be a real-world ripoff like Jordan tends towards. I'm a verifiable Martin fanboy though, so don't mind me. =)

Richardb
09-09-2007, 12:16 AM
I am a huge Martin fan also. Finest writer in fantasy currently, in my opinion, no question. Maps are week though, you are right.

NeonKnight
09-10-2007, 08:55 AM
The best 'book' I can think of, and I am definitely gonna try and find a copy but it is out of print is:


Atlas of Fantasy (http://www.cartographersguild.com//showthread.php?t=845) I Remember this book from Highschool, and it had some mighty fine maps, some from Works of Fiction, some representative of the Real World like a Texan's Map of the US (http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/FIP/TX-00531-C~Texan-s-Map-of-U-S-Posters.jpg), or things like that.

Again, a really cool atlas.

pyrandon
09-10-2007, 12:32 PM
The best 'book' I can think of, and I am definitely gonna try and find a copy but it is out of print is:


Atlas of Fantasy (http://www.cartographersguild.com//showthread.php?t=845) I Remember this book from Highschool, and it had some mighty fine maps, some from Works of Fiction, some representative of the Real World like a Texan's Map of the US (http://imagecache2.allposters.com/images/pic/FIP/TX-00531-C~Texan-s-Map-of-U-S-Posters.jpg), or things like that.

Again, a really cool atlas.

It's awesome you brought this up--I own this book, bought for me when I was in middle school because I loved maps & reading so much. Love it, love it, love it!

Eilathen
11-07-2007, 04:01 PM
Hmm..

You have to love the old master Tolkien...both for his map and for the depth of his world.

I also like the maps of Feist. The world is very clichée but then this doesn't bother me that much. I have a clear picture in my mind of Midkemia.

The second best for world-development (after Tolkien) is without question Steven Erkison...so much depth and history for his world...unbelievable...and his cultures and races do make sense...no really (he's an anthropologist and archaeologist, so that explains it, really ^^ ). I like his maps....maybe not the one in Gardens of the moon but the 7 cities continent (from Deadhouse Gates) is quiet nice.

I think Martin is a very good writer ...but his maps and his worldbuilding are really not the things he excels in imho (that is dialogue and characterization).

A newer voice in Fantasy is Scott R. Bakker...don't know if you know his work (Prince of nothing trilogy). He has a nice map which is clearly inspired by Tolkien's map-style (see here: http://www.princeofnothing.com/index.php?page=maps&mode=earwa)
His worldbuilding is also quiet good.

Valarian
11-07-2007, 04:08 PM
Janny Wurts has some fine maps in her books. An interactive version of her map of Athera is online at http://www.paravia.com/JannyWurts/website/InteractiveMap/AtheraMap.html

pyrandon
11-08-2007, 10:12 AM
A newer voice in Fantasy is Scott R. Bakker...don't know if you know his work (Prince of nothing trilogy). He has a nice map which is clearly inspired by Tolkien's map-style (see here: http://www.princeofnothing.com/index.php?page=maps&mode=earwa)

Wow--that's an understatement, eh? That map is not only "inspired by" but practically "stylistic plagiarism"! Wowee--even the names! That map certainly would not inspire me to read the books, for it is practically hack, but on your recommendation I will check them out. :)

ravells
11-08-2007, 10:24 AM
Wow, that practically *is* middle earth (after an Anduin flood, perhaps!).

I've picked up the Janny Wurts 'Mistwraith' book recommended by Valarian and have just started it. There appears to be a printing error at the begining of the book where the text (and the map) have been double printed - they're pretty blurry, the map is entirely illegible and the first chapter is visually hard to read. It's an Amazon buy, and I can't be bothered to go through the hassle of returning it. The story itself is OK so far, I can't say that I get on too well with Janny's writing, there's something dischordant about it which I cannot yet put my finger on and I'm not getting pulled into the story as fast as I would like but it's early days yet.

Writing good Fanstasy these days is a really tough task, there are only so many tropes and to write something refreshing (which Erickson and RR Martin have both done) is a herculean achievement.

Have also picked up today, 'The Sum of All Men' by David Farland. Never heard of him before but read the first few pages in the bookshop and it looks more like my sort of read, certainly in terms of style. The map is Campaign Cartographer standard, but at least rather than trying to pack all the information into a single map, there is a world map, a regional map and a city map.

RobA
11-08-2007, 01:51 PM
rather than trying to pack all the information into a single map, there is a world map, a regional map and a city map.

I like books that do that - especially if they scatter the maps at the start of chapters. It is finding a little treasure when you flip the page to find a local detail or city map part way through the book.

-Rob A>

Eilathen
11-09-2007, 09:22 AM
I don't see it that harsh concerning the map of Bakker. The style is the same, true...but the landscape and the names not so much. I mean Tolkien's landform was very...generic...so a lot of maps can seem to be plagiarised...the question is...where did Tolkien steal it ;)

Anyway...for the book itself...i really like his worldbuilding (he draws more from Middle East than europe) and his writing-style is very good imho. He also introduces philosophy (Bakker has a major in Philosophy). The book is pretty dark and gritty...not much light on the horizon in this book, so stay clear of it if you don't like that.
As for the story...i am really torn...as i said, i love the world and his writing-style...the story...tough one. It is always a love/hate relationship...my main problem is the main-character...he is just too...inhuman...and unbalanced (in-world. He's way too powerful). But this is a matter of personal taste i guess.
I still recommend the book...because even if the story didn't convince me 100%, it's still better than 95% of the Fantasy out there...

As for Wurts...I have started on that series again (2nd or 3rd time, can't remember)...and I still can't stand it...she tries too hard to write in an elaborate style...it does not flow well .... and the story-progress ist just slooooooow.

ravells
11-09-2007, 09:40 AM
Uh oh....I'm on page 100 in the Mistwraith book and the story has hardly begun. I was kinda hoping that something would start happening in the next 100 pages! Eeeek!

ravells
11-21-2007, 08:18 AM
I found this site (in German) online: fantasy atlas (http://www.fantasy-atlas.org/)

It has maps of the worlds from a number of fantasy / SF books. Some of them are very well done indeed - I think (from the brief flip I had through them) that they have been drawn for the site.

Ravs

NeonKnight
11-21-2007, 12:29 PM
I found this site (in German) online: fantasy atlas (http://www.fantasy-atlas.org/)

It has maps of the worlds from a number of fantasy / SF books. Some of them are very well done indeed - I think (from the brief flip I had through them) that they have been drawn for the site.

Ravs

Actually Ravs, those maps are almost entirely derived from the book I mentioned above, the Atlas of Fantasy (http://www.cartographersguild.com//showthread.php?t=845)

ravells
11-21-2007, 04:45 PM
My apologies! I have sent an email to the cartographer to ask him to visit the site!

NeonKnight
11-21-2007, 06:07 PM
My apologies! I have sent an email to the cartographer to ask him to visit the site!

No prob. I have seen the Elric map (Moorcook) from the Atlas of Fantasy over 20 years ago, but the Colored one is new to me.

It is also interesting to note, that the Elric map of Melnibone is not in any actually Elric book to my knowledge.

landorl
11-26-2007, 04:23 PM
I'm kind of fond of Dennis L McKiernan's world of Mithgar map
Mithgar (http://www.geocities.com/mithgarpedia/map.html)

The books (at least the first three) are almost direct knockoffs of Tolkien. - They fight a Gorgon in Moria... ah Kreggen Kor rather, instead of the Balrog, and Gandalf is away in Middle Earth somewhere, but other than that, they were strikingly similar.

Still, if you like LOTR, they are an easy read. Some of his later works were a bit better though.

The Cartographist
11-26-2007, 07:41 PM
The Map of Mithgar is one of the favorites from my readings.

And, as you say, the stories are COMPLETELY plagiarized from Tolkien. It was sad, actually, because I had heard that his books were good.

NeonKnight
11-26-2007, 08:08 PM
Yeah, I remeber that.

The had to go into the dwarven ruins to cross to the other side. A Tentacle octopus type critter garbs the pony or what not from the lake out side the dwarven gates, etc, etc, etc.

Oh, and towards the end the Great Shadow was encirciling the Ringed, White City, with its many encircling outwalls.

ravells
11-27-2007, 07:32 AM
Lol! How do people get away with writing stuff like that? I'm reminded of the Early Terry Brooks 'Sword of Shannara' , which to my mind has always stood as the epitome of the Tolkien ripoff industry.

That Mithgar map is very pretty, though!

landorl
11-27-2007, 12:23 PM
I think that I was about 15 when I first read the Iron Tower Trilogy. Back then, I realized that it was a complete knock off of Tolkien, but it was still a fun read, and the writing style made for a quick easy read. I tried to read it later, and I had a hard time getting past how much of a knock off it was, and it seemed almost too simplistic.

Fortunately, I read the Hel's Crucible dualog, and it was more original, and a little better written. Still a quick easy read with a lot of action. If you are looking for a new concept in fantasy, this is not it, but if you like Tolkien's work, you will probably like McKiernan's works.

As far as the Sword of Shanara, that one had some of the same elements as LOTR, but it was unique enough to be a different story. The Elfstones of Shanara was a great departure, and a good book also. The maps in the Shanara books were a little weak though.

James_Heard
12-14-2007, 07:47 PM
I'm more in favor of Harry Turtledove's maps for Videssos.

Eilathen
02-15-2008, 12:35 PM
Hey, i found a new map to share :)

The author is Alison Croggon, an australian writer. Very tolkien-ish...as i understand, the novel is very lyrical...but i have not read it yet. Just thought i'd show you this and see what you pros had to say ;)

http://booksofpellinor.com/maps/edil_map.html

pyrandon
02-15-2008, 04:33 PM
Wow--his water/ocean shading is absolutely wonderful! I am so going to rip him off! Good find, Eilathen!

delgondahntelius
02-16-2008, 03:31 PM
Ya, the water effect is great, I going to rip of pyrandon's idea of ripping him off... sweet.

alucard339
02-17-2008, 10:02 AM
Hey, i found a new map to share :)

The author is Alison Croggon, an australian writer. Very tolkien-ish...as i understand, the novel is very lyrical...but i have not read it yet. Just thought i'd show you this and see what you pros had to say ;)


I love this map, the general feeling and the way he did the scroll.

I sure a color version could come out just great.


Right now I'm reading through the Shannara series (Terry Brooks) and I think the map and setting is good, not the best but still good. The map delivers the info but the style is poor.

I just want to say that R. Jordan got a great world setting (to complexes in the last few books IMHO), but is map just suck: too plain and empty of key location found in the books.

I prefer the series Sword of truth from Terry Goodkind even if the first few books are kind of a rip-off from Jordan. I just can remember the map quality, sorry.

Another series that is great and easy to read is Robin Hobb (The Farseer Trilogy), but the map just poor.

RobA
02-19-2008, 09:43 AM
I just want to say that R. Jordan got a great world setting (to complexes in the last few books IMHO), but is map just suck: too plain and empty of key location found in the books.

The Edil map does remind me of the Jordan WoT maps stylistically.

(I just re-read the entire Jordan series and also found it getting mired in the details for books 8-10 but 11 improves dramatically.) I do like they way they include maps of the cities scattered though the book at the start of certain chapters. In book 11, the 2 page spread map of Malden and the surrounding regions (before chapter 28 ) was perfect for helping to explain the action that follows.

-Rob A>

Naryt
02-19-2008, 11:08 AM
The Edil map does remind me of the Jordan WoT maps stylistically.

(I just re-read the entire Jordan series and also found it getting mired in the details for books 8-10 but 11 improves dramatically.) I do like they way they include maps of the cities scattered though the book at the start of certain chapters. In book 11, the 2 page spread map of Malden and the surrounding regions (before chapter 28 ) was perfect for helping to explain the action that follows.

-Rob A>

Of course, the real problem with WoT is that Robert Jordan died. :( But it does appear that the last book was in the works at the time and will be finished (Dragonmount (http://www.dragonmount.com/RobertJordan/) Official Robert Jordan blog).

sweatyboyy
01-17-2012, 11:11 PM
I liked the maps in the Farseer and Liveships trilogies by Robin Hobb. They're kinda simple though.

The map in the Soldier Son trilogy is pretty rad, and the names that Hobb uses for place names are certainly bangable.

Gamerprinter
01-17-2012, 11:16 PM
If you look at the post dates - this is a really old thread. I haven't seen RichardB in the guild since that time. Most likely the site that was posted at is long gone. I don't think we can help you.

GP

Richardb
01-18-2012, 12:10 PM
Still around... just not checking in much. Still mapping - getting better all the time!

Gamerprinter
01-18-2012, 01:11 PM
Good to see you RichardB - hows CC3 mapping going for you, or are you still using CC2?

Richardb
01-18-2012, 02:11 PM
41324

Been using CC3 since it came out, having fun with style packs, and using complex layering. Above example is on profantasy site for anyone that wants to download and play with. I like that style. (not complex, just using a style from the annuals).

torstan
01-18-2012, 03:13 PM
That style looks familiar somehow :)

Richardb
01-18-2012, 03:39 PM
Your style is the best yet from the annuals in terms of 'can't help but look good' maps. I've done a half dozen or so maps in the style, or slightly modified versions of your style. Good stuff.

torstan
01-18-2012, 05:01 PM
The guys at Profantasy did a lovely job of converting the raster images into CC3 icons. I've been very impressed with how it panned out in the program.