Fantasy Book Club discussion


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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I have always found the maps in fantasy novels interesting to look at as you follow a story and try to gauge how they are travelling. Some books thought have some poorly designed maps done by the author themselves, not a problem if the map isnt needed that much. I read that the Lord of the Rings actually had large fold out maps done by Christopher Tolkien in the earlier hard cover versions and have a example of one in The Silmarillion. Shame that those maps werent continued with in the later issues of the novels. So i did purchase The Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad which is handy to gaze at while reading and has a lot of detail and virtually maps of everything.
I notice in some fantasy novels that the maps are actually incorrect in regard to details supplied in the book, which shows lack of design. I am very impressed by Russell Kirkpatrick who writes fantasy but is also a map maker by trade. If only more novels could feature such well designed maps. Here is a example of maps by Russell Kirkpatrick

message 2: by Leslie Ann (new)

Leslie Ann (LeslieAnn) | 224 comments I thought the map done for A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin was both beautiful and accurate.

message 3: by Terence (new)

Terence (Spocksbro) | 88 comments I went through a phase where my criterion for selecting a book was whether or not it had a map (or, better, maps) among the end papers. In my defense, I was around 12 at the time, I like to think my reasons for selecting literature have progressed some :-)

But I'm in total agreement with you about the handiness of maps and how good ones can add to the reader's enjoyment. Those fold-out maps from my editions of Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion got quite a work out.

I agree with Leslie that the Westeros maps are pretty good; so are the ones I've seen for The Wheel of Time. The atlas I'd like to see is one for the world of The Black Company. I've come across rather crude ones here and there on the Web.

message 4: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (jeannekc) I've not heard of The Black Company: The First Chronicle of The Black Company before, but I just read the synopsis here on Goodreads and it looks most interesting! I'm going to add it to my "To Read" queue. Thanks Terence!

message 5: by Robert (new)

Robert (bigbobbiek) A number of years ago, I found a copy of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, all three books, leather bound. It has the original, fold out map in the back, and a complete appendix with notes about events before, during, and after the novels themselves, which I thought was a great bonus. If you are interested in getting a copy with the full map, it's a good one to pick up, though it does run about $75.

If the book stands alone, then I usually don't feel like I am missing out on anything when there is no map. If the setting didn't warrant more than one book, then it can probably do without a map. However, if I am reading a series in it's own setting and there is never any map, I really do like a map so that I can keep track of the events that are happening and where. Sometimes, a good map really clarifies the events in the story more than a description can.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

That was a great find to get 3 leather bound copies with the maps and complete appendix. You have me envious now as read i my copy of the Lord of the Ring and use companion books for more details and maps.

message 7: by Jane (new)

Jane (jane_jones) I love maps in fantasy books - after all you are creating a world so we should see where things are in relation to one another. It was one of the things I liked the most with LOTR and have come to expect them.

message 8: by Terence (new)

Terence (Spocksbro) | 88 comments Speaking of maps, I was browsing the shelves of my local Barnes & Noble the other day and came across Across the Face of the World Fire of Heaven Trilogy by Russell Kirkpatrick. The endpaper maps alone almost "made" me buy the book.

I resisted because I've never read anything by this author before. The reviews I've seen on GR are mixed so I was wondering if anyone else had read Kirkpatrick and what they thought of him.

message 9: by Robin (last edited Dec 25, 2008 09:22AM) (new)

Robin (RobinSullivan) | 629 comments I too love maps in fantasy books - especially when the characters travel around quite a bit I study them and track their progress etc. When proofing my husband's book I always had the map handy to make sure that there was no mistakes about the direction of various things. Doing fold-out maps is very hard difficult for most printers to do and very costly for the publisher so the map in the book does not do the world justice - Michael cared so much about his map that it is a "top level link" on his website - lol. He has put a Overall map and also a detail blow up.

message 10: by Becky (new)

Becky (Beckyofthe19and9) I love maps when it comes to fantasy, it really helps fit everything together in my mind as I'm reading.

I recently read Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, and repeatedly referred to the printed maps on the inside covers to help determine where I was at any given moment. Very handy.

message 11: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I think I posted on another thread that I don't like maps. They don't help me visualize the world at all. If there's one in a book I'm reading, I'll glance at it once and that's about it.

message 12: by Eric (new)

Eric (songwind) I like maps a lot, and enjoy drawing them as part of role playing. However, I don't find the lack of a map to be a problem in a novel unless the exact geography is relevant, or if the story involves multiple places simultaneously. Lots of moving armies, or races against time over distance call for it in a large way. OTOH, knowing that your western neighbor is bigger and expansionistic is usually enough. :)

message 13: by Jenn (new)

Jenn ya im with sandi on this one. maps to me r a waste of paper. and in one series that ive read, the Belgariad, my friend said the maps r almost exact to the lord of the rings maps. i dont know if its true or not though, having never read lord of the rings, butit goes to show that most of the time maps dont matter, if the author is willing to rip them off someone elses book.

message 14: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) I'm going to confess that I don't like real-life maps either. I had a really hard time in the days before Mapquest and turn-by-turn directions.

message 15: by Fox (new)

Fox (FoxMists) | 217 comments One thing about maps that I like is that sometimes (again I will reference Brent Weeks here) the author doesn't always have very clear references to locations. Weeks wrote the Night Angel trilogy and I bought the first two books in e-book format for my palm pilot. Now, the books were great, but since it was palm pilot, I had no map. The locations were not clear... in fact I discovered when I got the last book in the series that I was totally wrong about the locations of several places in relation to one another. And I'll have you know that I'm pretty good at visualizing! lol! So soemtimes a map is crucial for understanding. IMO

message 16: by Jenn (new)

Jenn good point. but sometimes u dont have to visualize where everything is in relation to each other in exactly the same way as the author.

message 17: by Caytlin (new)

Caytlin (cgarzi) I think that in books where traveling happens often, and where there are numerous locations involved, a map is quite handy. The first time I found myself actually needing a map was in the Eragon series, when the characters were traveling throughout multiple cities on the way to the Varden. I just couldn't visualize from the descriptions alone where everything was, and in what direction they were traveling.

I will admit though that I have a terrible sense of direction and I'm mostly willing to just accept that the characters are moving no matter the direction. However, when the author starts talking about this city being closer to that city, and this other one is kind of on the way but not really, I start to get mixed up.

In relation to what Jenn said about the Belgariad series... I don't know about the maps being rip offs, but it really wouldn't surprise me. I just finished the third book and I can't get over how horrible the whole series has been.

message 18: by Jenn (new)

Jenn what?!? u think the series is horrible?!?! i LOVE LOVE LOVE the belgariad!! i have a couple of the books almost memorized by heart!!!


message 19: by Cameron (new)

Cameron (cswagner) Maps are awesome. They are usually the first thing I look at before starting the book, just to get a general feeling for the world. Then I'll refer back to them a few times as characters travel. I tend to be a bit of a visual learner. Sometimes the authors directions can confuse me a bit, so it always helps to have a map to guide me. I really don't see how they can be a waste...

message 20: by Robin (last edited Jan 12, 2009 01:32AM) (new)

Robin (RobinSullivan) | 629 comments I don't understand "the waste" issue either it is evident that a number of people like them so having them is a benefit for them - those that don't like or read them can skip on by its not like they are "in the way persay".

-- Wife of fantasy author Michael J. Sullivan: The Crown Conspiracy| Avempartha (04/09)

message 21: by Robert (new)

Robert (bigbobbiek) Robin wrote: "I don't understand "the waste" issue either it is evident that a number of people like them so having them is a benefit for them - those that don't like or read them can skip on by its not like the..."

A very good point! It's not like the publisher told the Author "You can't go above 250 pages, including maps, title page, table of contents..."

message 22: by Caytlin (new)

Caytlin (cgarzi) I guess maybe it's a discussion not on whether they should cut out maps in books or not, but rather whether or not you like/use the maps and why... Not to mention some books that had particularly good/bad maps, etcetera.

message 23: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) I remember staring at the maps of Tolkien's Middle Earth for ages when I was a kid. I'd read the series several times & wondered what other adventures were happening in all the other places. The scale of distances were neat, too. They really helped me imagine the world better & more.

My wife & daughter are dyslexic & can't read maps well at all. For them, they're useless. For me, they've sometimes made a story better because I do read them well. I'll book mark them & read them over to get an idea of the world & refer to them pretty consistently.

message 24: by Michael (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 284 comments When I was a kid, maybe I was six or so, my brother read the Lord of the Rings and he did a blown up drawing, meticulously copied from the books. It covered one whole wall of our shared bedroom. He also put together the continuous image of the three covers and put them on the walls. (This was the original Authorized American version--before ISBNs--not available on Goodreads) and I remember seeing these weird images and not knowing what they were until six years later. The drawings were long gone, and I had forgotten about them, but one day I found The Hobbit on a shelf and saw the image and it was like one of those flashbacks in a movie. I couldn't remember why the image was so compelling, at the time. I opened the book and saw the Lonely Mountain map and was like Richard Dreyfuss from Close Encounters..."this means something!"

Now I have that huge red hardbound cover version with the big fold out map JJ mentioned. I am very careful when opening it.

As Robin mentioned I have a map in my book, and when I meet people who have read it I will often ask if they found the map helpful. I am always stunned when they look at me confused and say, "map?"

"Yeah, there's a map. Right in the beginning. It covers two whole pages."

They flip through the book and their eyes widen. "Oh."

message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 13, 2009 09:02PM) (new)

After reading your posting Michael i remembered a old map i have had hidden away for years of Middle Earth done by Pauline Baynes in 1969: The Middle Earth Map by Pauline Baynes. After searching online i found she had recently passed away so have posted a In Remembrance thread. I am sure many of us have fondly enjoyed her drawings on various novel covers and the maps she did for Middle Earth.

So here is the thread i have made in her honour:
Pauline Baynes - In Remembrance

message 26: by Michael (last edited Jan 14, 2009 08:13AM) (new)

Michael (MichaelJSullivan) | 284 comments Here are the covers I spoke of as well.

Tolkien Covers

message 27: by Elise (new)

Elise (ghostgurl) | 586 comments I love maps in fantasy books, if I can read it. A lot of times the names of the locations are way too small. In that case I just end up ignoring the map. I also would have liked a map for Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, but I know he doesn't like them for some reason.

message 28: by Hywela (last edited Jan 22, 2009 02:06AM) (new)

Hywela (Hywela-Lyn) Almost every fantasy I've ever read, from Tolkein to Anne McCaffrey has had a map in it. I think a lot depends on the story itself. My first book 'Starquest' takes place mainly in space, and didn't really need a map. The sequel 'Children of The Mist' (due out this year) is set on one of the planets (Loosely based on the Norse legends of Niflheim) which the heroine in the last book visited, and since the hero travels from one side of the continent to the other, and various hamlets and locations form an important part of the story, I thought I would draw a map to help the reader visualise the journey. I found that drawing the map actually helped me to flesh out the story, and in fact provided twists in the plot which I probably would not have thought of otherwise. However, it is a romance, and although the editor who contracted it loved the map, she left the publshing house before the edits were done, and my new editor obviously felt the map was not necessary. I tend to agree. The locations aren't that important, it's what happens in between. But as I said, drawing the map was helpful to me as a writer, and as a reader I do enjoy following the events on map - but often after I've actually read the book.

Here's the map I drew for 'Children Of The Mist'
(With the help of an on-line cartography programme I have to say.)


message 29: by Robin (new)

Robin (RobinSullivan) | 629 comments Just got back from Marscom - a fantasy sci/fi convention and I was interested in just how many people who came up to buy a book - went looking for a map right off. I've not been in this type of situation to see first hand the market research on this.

I think it has to do with the fact that fantasy is in a world "not like our own" and it helps to put things into perspective for people.

Wife of fantasy author: Michael J. Sullivan
The Crown Conspiracy (Oct 2008) | Avempartha (April 2009)
Reviews: Fantasy Book Critic | Odysssey | Amazon | MidWest Book Review | Huntress Reviews

message 30: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Some publishers actually have policies against maps. Or at the very least, prejudices against them. Even if the author has one, they're reluctant to use it in the book.

message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim (JimMacLachlan) That's odd, Patrick. Do you know why? Cost? Hassle?

message 32: by Sandi (last edited Jan 22, 2009 07:36AM) (new)

Sandi (Sandikal) Patrick wrote: "Some publishers actually have policies against maps. Or at the very least, prejudices against them. Even if the author has one, they're reluctant to use it in the book.

I'd like to hear more about that too. It really seems like EVERY fantasy novel has a map. Do the publishers prefer to make up their own maps?

I have to wonder why every fantasy novel is now expected to have a map. Robin says that people at the fantasy convention actually look for maps. On the other hand, you rarely see a science fiction novel that has a map, yet many could benefit from one. I'd like to know where different planets are in relationship to each other.

message 33: by Jon (last edited Jan 23, 2009 12:29PM) (new)

Jon (jonmoss) | 534 comments When I read the space opera On Basilisk Station, I was surprised to find a map. A Fire Upon The Deep also had a nice map. Other than those two, I've not normally seen maps in science fiction novels.

I once wanted to create a tapestry (via needlepoint or cross stitch) of Middle Earth and/or the Wheel of Time world. I also entertained making a stained glass rendition. But, alas, I have so little time to read, let alone attempt some other non-reading oriented craft. :)

message 34: by Robin (new)

Robin (RobinSullivan) | 629 comments I'm confused by the statement about some publishers don't want them...after all if someone is not interested they would just skip it. I don't see where an extra page (or two in the case of a spread) would change the cost of the book much. Of course a nice "fold out map" - like in some of the big leather bound versions of LOTR - that is a signficant cost because there is a lot of "manual handling". The only thing that I can think of to make a publisher NOT want a map is the artist cost?

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

I always study the maps in a novel before reading it to get a idea of the area the book is set in. What frustrates me is when locations are mentioned often in the book and then i find i cannot locate it on the map ! Its like trying to find a street address that does not exist on a road map. I just think maps add a lot to the adventure of the story as you can follow the path they take and try to guess where they may head next, but i do prefer the map to be extensive in detail if there is a lot of travelling and mentioning of locations in the novel.

message 36: by Jackie (last edited Feb 04, 2009 07:50AM) (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) My husband and I love maps in books, especially when a quest is involved, we can follow the route they are taking. I like looking at the terrain, giving me an idea of what it's like there. There's just something about the maps that make the novels feel real to me.

message 37: by Jon (new)

Jon (jonmoss) | 534 comments Jackie wrote: "There's just something about the maps that make the novels feel real to me. "

I completely agree. I've gone so far as to buy atlases for my favorite series - like for Pern and for the Land. One of the copies of the Silmarillion included large foldout maps (poster size) which I devoured.

message 38: by Fox (new)

Fox (FoxMists) | 217 comments Is this the appropriate time to mention that some people may have fantasy maps on their walls for series' they read frequently? I mean, I'm sure you think that's odd and it certainly isn't me! But maybe someone would have like a WoT map on their wall just above their bed so they can check various locations as they read. ;)

message 39: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) That's a really good idea.

message 40: by Fox (new)

Fox (FoxMists) | 217 comments Jackie wrote: "That's a really good idea."

Oh? In that case it *is* me :)

message 41: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) LOL
I wish I thought of it. I get tired of flipping though to the beginning and finding the map page.

message 42: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) | 825 comments Jackie wrote: "LOL
I wish I thought of it. I get tired of flipping though to the beginning and finding the map page."

After reading about 6 Shannara books in a row, I got fed up with that and found some maps of the world online to print out and set close by.

In the very next book, the characters got on an airship and crossed the ocean to another continent....


message 43: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) Chris,
I've read almost all the Shannara novels, in fact, I'm reading Genesis of Shannara right now, on the 2nd book. Once I read the 3rd, I will have read all of them.
Refresh my memory, was that The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara you're talking about?

message 44: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) | 825 comments Jackie, it is indeed the Voyage. I do love the series, though. I've only got a little bit left in Morgawr and I'll force myself to take a break from Shannara and start Name of the Wind.

My stepdaughter got me hooked on Shannara again. I hadn't read any since high school. Which is fair, since I got her to read Wheel of Time....

Now if I can get her away from Twilight and on to some GRRM or Steven Erikson. Ok, nevermind. Those aren't exactly age appropriate....

message 45: by Fox (new)

Fox (FoxMists) | 217 comments Chris wrote: "Jackie wrote: "LOL
I wish I thought of it. I get tired of flipping though to the beginning and finding the map page."

After reading about 6 Shannara books in a row, I got fed up with that and..."


(so sorry... had to!)

message 46: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) Chris,
Have you read The Word and the Void series? Because it is a Must Read before starting on Genesis of Shannara.

message 47: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) | 825 comments Jackie wrote: "Chris,
Have you read The Word and the Void series? Because it is a Must Read before starting on Genesis of Shannara.

Not yet. I found an omnibus of those on and got it for her for Christmas. They look awesome. I might even tackle those before High Druid...

message 48: by Jackie (new)

Jackie (thelastwolf) At first, I wasn't impressed with W & V, but as the story got going, I really liked it alot.
As far as Shannara goes, I like this end of it better. I didn't care all that much for Jerle Shannara and High Druid was OK. They just seemed to be so far away from the earlier books.
I love the original first 3: Sword, Elfstones and Wishsong. Man, it doesn't get better than that! And I loved Heritage too. I even liked the prequel, First King, I think it was.
I am thoroughly enjoying Genesis; it has the feel of the early Shannara novels and I like that.
The Word and The Void has nothing to do with Shannara...yet. It's in Genesis that it all comes together. It was a work of genius, bridging two vastly different series together like this. Now I'm impressed!

message 49: by Robert (new)

Robert (bigbobbiek) Viktoria wrote: "Is this the appropriate time to mention that some people may have fantasy maps on their walls for series' they read frequently? I mean, I'm sure you think that's odd and it certainly isn't me! Bu..."

Hehehe, my wife wants to do our guest room so that it feels like you've gone on Safari, or to some other far away place. I told her we should do murals of Minis Tirith, The Shire, and maybe Lonely Mountain or Murkwood and call the room "Welcome to Middle Earth!!!"

Oddly enough, she didn't reject the idea outright....

message 50: by Chris (new)

Chris  (haughtc) | 825 comments Jackie, I just finished Morgawr last night. I'm changing gears and moving to Name of the Wind today. But I'll be back in the Shannara world with my trusty maps (`tossing a wink towards Viktoria`). At this point it's a toss up which series to start. W&V looks great but I'm also curious about Grianne. And eventually I want to get into Genesis too, as that seems to be well received.

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Books mentioned in this topic

A Game of Thrones (other topics)
The Black Company (other topics)
The Atlas of Middle-Earth (other topics)
The Silmarillion (other topics)
Across the Face of the World (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Christopher Tolkien (other topics)
Karen Wynn Fonstad (other topics)
Russell Kirkpatrick (other topics)
Brent Weeks (other topics)
Michael J. Sullivan (other topics)