Band of the Crow: The Map at the Back

Posted by: on Apr 2, 2012 | 5 Comments

map of Midland Brigantia, for the novel The Band of the Crow by Arvid Nelson. One of my favorite things about fantasy novels is the map at the back of the book. There’s nothing like it to draw you into that other world. When I think about the sum total time I’ve spent on the map for The Band of the Crow – that’s my newly-minted fantasy novel, the first in a series – I weep. But oh well. It’s a learning process. I hope.

I began with Campaign Cartographer. If you’re a game master, I highly recommend this program. I spent a lot of time learning it, but I ended up throwing out the map I created because it just wasn’t what I wanted. In a weird way, Campaign Cartographer is best if you don’t have a clear idea of what your world looks like. I think that was my problem – CC filled in too many blanks. But don’t get me wrong! it’s a very powerful tool. Too powerful for me, maybe.

So I started over from scratch, drawing a map by hand and scanning it into Illustrator using the Live Trace function. Live Trace is worth the price of Illustrator all by itself. If you’re interested in art at all, take some time to learn it. There are lots of great tutorials floating around the Web, including official (and free!) Adobe training videos.

But.

I still had a problem, the same one I’ve discovered with a lot of fantasy maps – too big. How many times have you read a story with a sprawling map, only to find that the action takes place in a narrow sliver of that world? At some point, all of the nooks and crannies of the coastlines become meaningless, even ridiculous.

That’s another issue I have with a lot of fantasy maps – they’re too precise. They look like they were made with GIS software and global positioning satellites. It kills the mystery and wonder of the story.

So I’m keeping my big world map, but I’m not revealing it until the larger world becomes more important – which it will, in later books. For Band of the Crow I decided to stick to the story – because that’s the most important thing, right?

I made the map somewhat imprecise, because I wanted it to look like something produced by the people in my world. I decided to stick to black and white for that reason, too. Black and white will also look a lot better on e-readers. Not a bad thing!

And so, three years after I started, I’m finally ready to show the map to the world. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Midland Brigantia!

Map of Midland Brigantia, for the novel The Band of the Crow by Arvid Nelson

The typeface is “Brandywine”, from the utterly, utterly indispensable Scriptorium. The site is kind of a challenge to navigate, but it’s worth the slog. Brandywine has a great “old time ice cream parlor” look to it, and for some reason it felt perfect for this map.

For the mountains, the forests, the hills, the towns, I traced in my own simplified versions of the (very lovely) symbol sets included with Campaign Cartographer.

The map turned out better than I expected, if I do say so myself. And I do. I don’t know what the future holds for Band of the Crow, but the map reminds me the story is worth reading, at the very least. Hopefully the rest of the world will agree!

The story starts in the village of Alundil (AL-un-dill), in case you’re wondering.

5 Comments

  1. Jamie
    April 3, 2012

    I love maps. I bloody love maps! Books are so much better when they have a map, and one of my favourite things in Rex Mundi was the updated maps throughout the series. As you say, they really help draw you in to the fantasy land the author has created.

    I hope all goes well with the book, can’t wait to read it.

  2. Rvid
    April 3, 2012

    Jamie! Oi! The great Jamie Stead posts on Arvidland… a red-letter day!

    World, Jamie was gonna take over the art for Zero Killer, as I had a leeeetle communication breakdown with a certain member of the creative team midway through the print run. I’m sad it didn’t work out…

    Thanks for the props, Jamie, it means a lot coming from you. I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on with the novel. I think it’s bloody good, if I do say so myself. And I do.

  3. Jamie
    April 4, 2012

    Greetings Arvid! Sadly (for me), I think you’ve got me confused with someone else (who has an equally amazing name 😉 ). Possibly fellow Brit Jamie McKelvie?

    Once upon a time I ran a little “fan site” for Rex Mundi, but sadly life got in the way and that fell by the wayside.

  4. Rvid
    April 4, 2012

    Oh, no! Jamie, many apologies. Would you believe you’re not the only Jamie Stead in my life? Of COURSE I remember you… NOW. But let my original post stand as a testament to my own foolishness.

    I recall your Rex Mundi site very fondly. I was so flattered you took the time to do it!

  5. Jamie
    April 7, 2012

    With a name like that he must be very talented and handsome 😉

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