Now, if it was key that the sword should hit the right note, it was much more key that the map should. Plus the map obviously had to reflect the facts of the text. So first of all, obviously, I had to provide my own childish scrawl which the artist, Dave Senior, would then art-i-fy and render beautiful and atmospheric. So the squared paper, retractable pencils and ultra-fine drawing pens were broken out with great relish. Styria looked something like this:
I’ve talked a bit in the past about the pros and cons of maps in fantasy, and the reasons why there was no map in the First Law. I think the main thing I didn’t really discuss was that, if a map’s going to be included, I want it to be right. I want it to punch its weight, and look the part. I think maps in fantasy series are too often lazy. Lazy in terms of the authorial thought going into them, and lazy in terms of the artistic execution. A map is artwork, and if you’re going to include it, it needs to look authentic, it needs to help set the tone and create the atmosphere for the world as well as simply describe it, or it’s a wasted opportunity. Or worse, it’s just stuck in there to say – “this book is epic fantasy, like that Lord of the Rings that made everyone so much money. Man, I hope this makes money too.”
So I was very keen that a map should a) be accurate within reason, b) have artistic merit, and c) communicate something about the setting just in the way that it’s drawn. To feel part of the setting. This was extra-specially true given that it was going on the cover, rather than just sitting forlorn, split in half over the first two pages. So the brief that went to the artist, Dave Senior, who draws a lot of maps for Gollancz books, was to aim at something like the work of Gerardus Mercator, the famous 16th century Flemish cartographer. Work along these lines (those links are pretty hi-res, so they may be demanding of processing power, but they are pretty damn cool for those of us who like maps, which, let’s face it, is pretty much all of us).
Our map would obviously be a lot simpler than Mercator’s, ’cause there’s NO WAY I’m thinking up that many names, and monochrome so as not to distract too much from the other elements that make up the cover. I particularly liked the way the cities were depicted as little groups of buildings vaguely appropriate to the city in question. That was particularly apt for Best Served Cold, since the action is centred around six cities, each with its own feel, so I gave some descriptions of those key locations as well that some sense of them could be conveyed in miniature on the map.
Couple of weeks later a rough version came back, which honestly was already pretty exciting. The general look, the lettering especially, was spot in. It felt classy. It felt authentic. One could believe that it was a map that the characters in the book might consult. There was a bit of tinkering to do, plus a few extra details – towns and towers and what have you – were added to fill in some of the white spaces. Laura Brett, the designer, then applied her ye olde parchmenty effect and we ended up with this:
Click on it. CLICK ON IT. Delighted with the results, I need hardly say. Excellent work, Dave Senior. In fact we like it so much we might attempt to incorporate it as a background on the title pages to the parts, as well. I’ve always liked the idea of extending some artwork into the book proper, to give the whole thing a bit more visual identity and make the experience of reading it that little bit richer. We will see how that goes.
And here’s one more, of my original guide with the final artwork beside…