As a longtime science fiction and fantasy book critic, you’d think that I would be particularly drawn to novels that feature engaging plotlines, fully developed characters, richly described backdrops, profoundly moving or thought-provoking themes, the use of symbolism and allegory, etc. – and that certainly is true – but sometimes it’s the little things, the seemingly insignificant details, that turn an entertaining novel into one that I cherish forever.

Yeah. I love a good map.

It’s not like I’m reading a novel set in New York City or Los Angeles – fantasy realms come entirely from a writer’s imagination. And some worlds – like Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Silverbergs’s Majipoor, and Feist’s Midkemia – are simply immense constructs; sprawling landscapes with literally hundreds of landmarks: kingdoms, cities, towns, mountain ranges, marshlands, forests, oceans, rivers, volcanoes, archipelagos, etc. Without a meticulously illustrated map, I’d be lost!

And I couldn’t be happier because some of the very best fantasy releases in the last few years have all included meticulously detailed maps: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, Lamentation by Ken Scholes, Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson,  The Chosen  by Ricardo Pinto, and The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass, to name a few. (They still don’t hold a candle, however, to my hardcover edition of The Lord of the Rings that features a 15” x 18” color, foldout map of Middle-earth!)

And while I’ve unquestionably seen the use of maps more frequently in fantasy novels, it’s by no means limited to the genre. I’ve been seeing more and more maps in crime fiction and mainstream mystery as well – for example, Mari Jungstedt’s stellar The Inner Circle  and Arnaldur Indridason’s Silence of the Grave both feature maps.

I’m not exactly sure why I love maps in novels so much. Yes, sometimes the map is so lovingly rendered, it’s almost like a work of art. Yes, the map is oftentimes an invaluable reference to help me keep track of where the protagonists are located and/or where the action is taking place. But it’s more than that – when I see a map in a novel, especially a lovingly produced one, I feel as though the publisher has taken that extra step to make my reading experience more complete, more enjoyable.

Am I alone in my love of fantasy maps? I think not. Dozens of regular visitors at’s Fantasy/Science Fiction forum have voiced similar opinions. A good map is like the literary icing on the cake. So publishers, if you’re reading this blog, more maps please.

Who knew cartography could be so sexy?

Message Edited by Jon_B on 06-24-2009 09:01 AM
by KekeJ on ‎06-24-2009 10:04 AM
I think maps also appeal to child in all of us. There is treasure to be found in a map even if it is not marked by an X. 
by on ‎06-24-2009 01:19 PM
I agree that maps are a wonderful thing to discover in a book.  Both for the sheer beautry of some of the illustrations but also for the practical purpose of them.  In the Whell of Time book by Rober Jordan the map for me helps keep track of where everyone is. 
by on ‎06-24-2009 02:19 PM



Yea, I love maps in novels because it brings a sense of depth and realism to the world.  Sometimes I image that I am being sent off to somewhere else in the world for my own adventure.  I enjoy the story that is being told but then again I can image my own.



by Par4course on ‎06-24-2009 08:34 PM

I totally agree...and it has to be a map with lots of detail...that adds so much realism to it.  And, if you love the map in LOTR, check out "The Atlas of Middle Earth".  It breaks down the whole story and gives lots more details (Tolkien says it took them ___days to get from this point to that point, so it must have been about ____miles ---- that sort of stuff).  The details mean that the story is to be taken seriously, someone worked long hard hours on this.  As Peter Jackson said, he saw the story more as history than as fantasy.  I love that.



by carmen22 on ‎06-24-2009 08:35 PM



Heh, Maps, you gotta Love Um! For me it's all about immersing in the Fantasy World I'm visiting, any and all Illustrations just enhance my experience and makes me want more. What author wouldn't want that, eh? Plus, how else would I know where I was going?!



by Moderator dhaupt on ‎06-25-2009 10:07 AM
And you're right Paul by not limiting it to fantasy etc.. I love a good map in a book even a straight from the hip mystery or even romance I love to see where the characters come from.  Whether it be seeing some mystical magical world to help me visualize the story and place of a fantasy/paranormal novel, follow the trail of the killer, or see X mark the spot where boy got girl maps rule.
by DinosaurBess on ‎06-26-2009 11:50 AM

Wow, Par4course, I should check out that atlas! Thank goodness Tolkien (and his son, Christopher) drew maps for us poor readers, anyway. I read "The Silmarillion" recently and without the fold-out map and the glossary, I would have gotten so frustrated I would have chucked it out my bedroom window (well, hopefully not that frustrated, but you get my point).


As a writer, does anyone feel they want to include a map with their story so readers will understand exactly what's going on? I always feel like I'm not describing my setting well enough. WIth my last story, I had to draw my own (pathetic) map for my own sanity. 


You said it Paul -- if authors know their worlds are so immense and unfamiliar, then they probably know their readers will be confused without a guide. Thank you, all you merciful authors, for taking pity on us curious readers!

by on ‎06-26-2009 03:49 PM
I like books with maps. It shouldn't be limited by genre of the book. The map puts the places in perspective for me ( how far things are apart or what is close together). To me it reflects on the author positively, the author took the time to draw the map to draw us into the story.
by Fiction_Fanatic_22031 on ‎06-27-2009 02:08 AM
I really enjoy maps as well.  Fantasy after all takes us to 'new worlds' and a map gives us an idea of the scope of the world.  I particularly like maps that have "uncharted regions" it lets my mind run wild with what adventures might await beyond the boundaries of the known world.
by Liago on ‎07-01-2009 11:13 AM

I too enjoy the maps, I find myself looking back to them as I read an epic story. These maps help to keep track of the scope of the world while at the same time drawing me in, making it feel more real. As a reader I feel that the maps give me yet another window through which to view the story taking place.


Ive always wondered though do the authors themselves create these maps in most cases or are artists hired and create them based on the authors instructions or story?

by djaq on ‎07-17-2009 12:30 PM

like most people have already said, maps put the story more into prospective. You get a better view of this world that this author has created. And like tons of posts have already stated, Tolkien's maps are the best. And why is this? Because of the intense detail and skill gone into the cartography! Duh. But there is just something about a freashly drawn map, clearly depicting the lands in the book, so you can see how the author sees this world. See the land in a persepctive! And well i dont know, it is just so cool. 




[forgive my pitiful 14 year old writing skills... ;-)  ]

by B&N Bookseller melissas on ‎08-16-2009 10:45 PM

I also love the maps included in these books. There is much to be gained about a story by looking at the map. My only wish is that they eventually become fold out or even removable (without having to cut them out). This way I could have the map in front of me instead of having to flip back and forth to reference it. I have yet to see an easy access map.


Perhaps I'm reading only cartographically challenged books?

by Gidde on ‎10-24-2009 10:43 AM

My favorite part of opening a new book is looking for the map in the front and studying it before I read the first page. I too have that hardcover of the LotR, and I was delighted to see not one, but two huge foldout maps! Lately I've been taking a hand in drawing them as well: the Cartographer's Guild has been a great source of inspiration and learning, and I'd highly recommend checking it out for anyone interested in either drooling at fabulous fantasy maps, or drawing them.

by ParkerS17 on ‎12-11-2009 03:12 PM

I too love a good map in a book and I think they can demonstrate an author's creativity.  Immense maps with incredible detail show that the writer spend lots of time and effort on the story as well.  If the created world is not well thought out, the plot and characters usually aren't either.  Complex maps on the other hand reveal a world rich in detail with more stories to tell than just the one being read.

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