Is it really a Big Epic Fantasy Book if there’s no map to be seen? R.R. Virdi, author of The First Binding, says NO WAY! Check out his thoughts on maps in fantasy books, PLUS an exclusive first look at the map you’ll find inside of The First Binding, right here.
By R.R. Virdi
Fantasy reader, or writer, you’ve probably formed an opinion on maps in novels at one point or another. You expect them as normal, especially if you’re a reader from the 90’s. You’ve opened up the Wheel of Time books and have the image of Two Rivers burned into your mind. Maybe you’ve memorized all of Randland. Maybe you’re a collector who has a book full of folding maps of Westeros and all the other lands in A Song of Fire and Ice.
I know I do.
You can’t have an epic traveling fantasy (especially a Silk Road inspired one) without a map that lives up to all of that. The lands, the fantastical, and of course, the epic part. We lovers of fantasy want to see mountain ranges and vasty plains inhabited by strange and wonderful things. We want the sense of wonder that comes with seeing rolling seas in storms and maybe monsters in their depths. I always have, and growing up as a child of two worlds (South Asian heritage, and American birth), I’ve been fascinated by travel and the layout of the world.
Of worlds. Real or otherwise.
So of course I leapt at the chance to have my own map represented and brought to life by the amazing Priscilla Spencer (who’s done work for the talented line up: Seanan Mcguire, Jim Butcher, and more). It’s a childhood dream, and more than that, this is a traveling fantasy series. One full of secrets, including some hidden in places you might not think to look. Or, maybe you would.
Like a map.
Priscilla and I got to talking over the crudely shaped map I’d first made to roughly place the lands I needed where they would be. We dove into the geography, cultures, and trade routes I’d established for my Golden Road, and then slowly, it all began to come to life. Her attention to detail and understanding just how many layers and secrets exist in this series and world shone through in the development.
People who’ve already read the ARCs might find pleasant little secrets hidden within this map, if they have the eye and patience to give it that look. But some of the things I can share?
Priscilla dove into the history of existing maps/records from travelers along the Silk Road of old. Design styles, and storytelling techniques used in maps (and yes, maps are stories of a sort as well. The stories of where we’ve been, would like to go, and what we imagine a place to be). They all bled into the final creation. Every detail in this map speaks to something – nothing is fruitless or wasteful design.
This is a map that shows the roads all manner of people travel, and along those roads, heroes, monsters, and the ones between. Stories, legends, lies, and truths. And sometimes they are all one and the same.
Her creation lives up to all the depth this world and story offers, and all the size and scope of the plot, and Ari’s travels, as well as his legends.
She gave the Mutri Empire the nod to India I wanted, and made it the heart of my world, as well as the map. There are images and nods to things all hidden throughout the first book, and all the ones to come. Something that will make this map rewarding to look at as you continue to read and hopefully, if you so choose, decide to reference this throughout your travels along the Golden Road.
A map isn’t just a map. It’s a key, a guide, and a story.
And all of those are secrets, show the way to secrets, and in fact, open secrets.
R.R. Virdi is a two-time Dragon Award finalist and a Nebula Award finalist. He is the author of two urban fantasy series, The Grave Report, and The Books of Winter. He was born and raised in Northern Virginia and is a first generation Indian-American with all the baggage that comes with. Should the writing gig not work out, he aims to follow his backup plan and become a dancing shark for a Katy Perry music video. The First Binding releases from Tor Books on August 16.
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