Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hang a Right at Unicorn Village

So, imagine you are reading a really awesome fantasy novel.  The author has described her world beautifully, inviting you in to meet all sorts of amazing creatures and characters.  The main character sets out on an amazing journey, filled with adventure and surprise at every turn (with a little bit of romance thrown in- you always have to have that!).  She gets instructions on how to brave the wilds of the Enchanted Forest, maneuver the Sorrowful Swamps, and avoid the cranky Troll's caves all together.  She must stop at the Witches Domain before she can continue on to the Mermaid's Lair, but she can't forget to hang a right at Unicorn Village.  You have a moment of utter panic, realizing you have no idea where the main character is in this world.  But then...a sigh of relief.  You frantically flip back to the beginning of the book, and there it is.

Right after the title page.

The Map.

(Cue choirs singing in the background)

Anne McCaffrey's Pern

Yes folks, the all-powerful, pulse-reducing, sigh-of-relief-because-you-know-where-the-character-is map.  If you are a fantasy reader, you come to expect maps of these totally unknown and gorgeous worlds that authors create.  It's like the 2nd main character.  Just like "The City" is the 5th character in "Sex and the City", the map of a fantasy novel is a character in itself.  It's not complete without one. 

Now, I know sometimes certain fantasy novels don't need them because they take place in our world and during our time.  That's all fine.  If its some sort of paranormal or magical realism book, and it takes place in our unchanged world, then I don't need a map.  Even though I've never been to Podunk U.S.A., I know what the US looks like, and can pretty much picture a typical town in my head and get by with descriptions from the author.  It's when something is changed about it, or it's an entirely new world that I need some kind of map so I can picture where the characters are going a little bit better.

So this all brings me to a recent annoyance I had with a certain book not containing a map.  Let me just say, I don't review books on here, so I'm not going to say anything about the book.  BUT I can totally say something about the absence of a map.  The book was Mockingjay.  I know, I know, it takes place in what was once North America.  BUT- it's totally changed.  Panem is not the US we know today, and Suzanne Collins makes it clear in the first Hunger Games book that it isn't.  I know we didn't really need the map in the first book, but it still would be nice to know where the districts are located.  I don't want to reveal anything about the book, since some of you still might be waiting to read it.  But, seriously...we need a map.  I was so confused as to where these districts might be in relation to what was once the US, that it distracted me a little from the story.  I kept wanting to flip back to the front to look at the map, but then remembered I couldn't!

Anyway, so.  Fantasy novels and maps = awesomeness.  I'm just saying.  It makes us fantasy readers less frantic and confused if we have a map in the beginning of the book.  Maybe it's just me though.  Maybe I'm just weird like that, and most people don't care whether there is a map or not.  But let me just say- if I pick up your book, and it doesn't have a map- I'm probably going to go on a little rant about it and annoy hubsies for a good 5 minutes.  And you don't want that- trust me.


Jen said...

Yay for maps! I found as a fantasy author myself, it's a lot easier to make a map for yourself and then use it as a guide to make sure your story flows all throughout.

I have two maps, one showing the journey to get to the Kingdom my MC desires and two showing the actual Kingdom and all it's glory. Let me just say, it's breathtaking (not my art, the place I envision)

Anonymous said...

I need to read a few more fantasy novels... any ideas to try?

Jess said...

I would think it helps the author too....
but I'm right there with you..maps! Oh and I also love family trees :)

Colene said...

OH, yea! I couldn't get a solid picture of where she was in any of the books actually. I'm not a big map buff and couldn't recall exactly where she was. I just kinda tuned it out eventually. Map would have been really really nice.
Good point!

Abby Minard said...

Jen- very true! After I came up with names for my world, I drew my map. Before I even started writing I had my map together (even if I didn't have names for everything, I at least knew where certain kingdoms would be). I refer to it alot when I'm writing.

Angela- do you like YA? One of my favorite YA novels is Sabriel by Garth Nix. A favorite adult fantasy of mine (which reads like a YA to me) is Mystic and Rider by Sharon Shinn. Each come with wonderful maps lol! I think I might list my favorite books on the side of my website...

Jess- you are so right. Family trees are awesome. I love that Amelia Atwater Rhodes' Kiesha'ra series has a family tree- very detailed and awesome.

Colene- thanks, I think I'm a little obsessive about maps lol

Anonymous said...

Abby-- I love anything YA, tween, and for children. I occasionally switch to my "appropriate" age group, but I love the imagination in YA's. If you think of anymore good ones, let me know. Thanks a bunch for the first suggestion.

Abby Minard said...

Sweet Angela! I'm all about fantasy YA. I am going to compile a list of all my favorite ya books and list them on the sidebar of my site. That way anyone who wants to know, can see what I like. I am reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore- not quite done, but it is wonderful so far. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White- I just finished that one- think Meg Cabot meets Buffy. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marilliar is a great one. Those are good ones to start at, but like I said I'll put a list up soon! Oh and Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn. Plus, there is the daunting Eragon! Very good but I actually haven't been able to make it through the last few books. Have fun!