In the end, or the beginning, it all began with a map.
As it should. Maps dictate almost every element of world building beyond conveyable possessions. Be it urban proximity or natural divides, once a map is set in stone much of an author’s writing is set in stone, too. The visuals for environments come to life. The distances between locations heighten to essential importance. The need for certainty becomes paramount. The scenery on the map sets out the climate, the abundance of food and water, the flora and fauna, and the hazards of an area until they become hard and fast rules that keep an author honest.
Maps create borders and borders create tension. The vast majority of epic fantasy novels are set during times of war where the political differences of neighbouring nations is critical to the story itself. Borders also create different types of ‘folks’ and therefore serve not only to point out how others live, but to reflect upon how the protagonists live. For example, in Imbalance the wild plains of the Sveldtlands serves as an important divide between the continents of Carn and the Thynlands. It separates an area of the world full of militaristic Barganols and human Taskmasters from the mercantile populations of Csarvent and Loce to the south – and in doing so creates an entirely new group: the Sveldtlander clans. Below is an older version of the world map divided by coloured continent.
One other thing to note before looking at some maps: with Imbalance I set out to do what many of my favourite fantasy series did not – give you the entire map. Wheel of Time leaves off on Shara and Seanchan. The First Law gives you chunks but never the whole thing. Malazan Book of the Fallen shatters a map on the floor and shouts at you to pick up the pieces. Song of Ice and Fire gets close, but ignores much of Essos. In Imbalance it is my aim to provide an entire, more or less precise map. Distances and the charting of landforms may not be satellite accurate, but the cities are the cities and the mountains the mountains. No mysterious ‘Salidors’ to pop up here. If the town is not on the map, then it does not qualify as a town.
Just don’t get mad at me when most all of Purge of Ashes occurs on one continent.
P.S.: One day I will do an astrological map to chart the stars and their signs.