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Posts Tagged ‘hobb’

Many fantasy books include maps showing the position of towns, coastlines, borders between countries and sometimes even town centres.

I love having a map in a book. It’s something I’ll pore over before starting the book and refer back to during the story. It gives a sense of place to a foreign land, helping the reader picture journeys and locations in their mind. Especially if there are different countries and borders playing a role in the story; for example Hobb’s Six Duchies and Eddings’ Aloria both cross borders and have different nationalities playing a far bigger role than, say, Rothfuss’ Name of the Wind (so far at least)).

Some authors go far further and development geography and weather systems as well. Eddings covered some of these aspects in his Rivan Codex. But Terry Pratchett is the author that mainly springs to mind here. He has created a series of maps of his very well-known Discworld, some spanning the disc, as well as more detailed town maps of Ankh-Morpork; the country of Lancre and even Death’s Domain (there can’t be many authors who have drawn a map of Death’s house and gardens!) Not to mention his books explaining science in the Discworld and “Roundworld” (Earth) – but that’s heading a little off topic.

But is a map necessary for a good fantasy book? A quick discussion with fellow fantasy-fans didn’t result in any books springing to mind that didn’t have a map. Do all (fantasy) authors create a map whilst writing? And do they need to share it with their readers? Is an author better if they can share their ideas of distance, location, layout etc with words rather than resorting to a drawing?

I read an (unpublished) fantasy story a few years ago that a friend wrote. The main character was never described physically in much detail. Deliberately so that each reader painted their own picture. It used to drive me mad asking him for a description and never getting one.

He did sit down and sketch a map of the world though for me. In just a few minutes too, so he clearly had the map in his head even I had the first (and possibly only) drawn version!

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It was during my A-levels many years ago now (well, it feels like many years!) that I first thought about writing some sort of comparison piece about two series of books, set in different mediaeval worlds but with strong similarities in characters by a favourite author of mine. Something along the lines of “Do some successful authors only have one story in them”. I never did write it – and then I changed course from English to German a couple of weeks into the first term.

But it’s always been there, at the back of my mind, never really forming enough of a direction to actually happen. I’m not sure I’ve got that direction now either, but a conversation with someone at work recently reminded me how much I used to enjoy writing. Creative writing, generally fantasy style bulletin board (how mid-90s!) role playing games. I made friends there. I travelled because of the friends I made there. And some of them I’m still in touch with to various degrees.

I digress.

The author in question? David Eddings. An American fantasy writer, (who I believe died a couple of years ago). I first read his Belgariad series when I was in my early teens and it soon became an addiction. I’m slightly ashamed to admit I can (and still frequently do) pick up one of those five tatty-eared, yellowing books with loose pages and open it at random and still know where I am in the story.

Re-reading them now, as an adult, I realise that actually the writing isn’t stunning. It’s a little heavy handed, and I’m sure there are better writers out there, in fantasy writing, and in general. But having read few fantasy books aimed at adults when I first fell in love, then Eddings was my “J.R.R Tolkein”. My base point from which all other fantasy was judged and rated. I fell in love with those characters, Polgara, scruffy Belgarath, Garion and fiery haired (and tempered) Ce’Nedra. They were solid people to me, not just words on a page.

A favourite conversation between my brother and I is picking a topfive authors. Until very recently Eddings was always top. But a couple of years ago he was toppled by Robin Hobb, whose wonderful first 3 trilogies kept me up long past my bedtime for many a night. But I’ll leave talking about her for another time.

And maybe I will get around to that comparison piece sometime too.

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