On Maps


Way back in the misty depths of time, when I sold The Steerswoman to Del Rey Books, a conversation more or less like this took place one day:

Me: And I think there should be a map, too.

Them: That’s a great idea.  There should definitely be a map!

Me:  Great!  Let’s have a map.

Them: Right.


Me: So… I guess we should get this book to whoever is doing the map —

Them: — and that would be you.

Me:  Me?

Them: You.

I had never made a map. I loved maps.  I’d read atlases for fun, and dream of far-off lands… but I’d never done one.

But now I had to do it — and it seemed I had to do it really soon. I grabbed every fantasy-style book with a map that I could find, got to the art store, figured out what I needed…

Hey, this was before the Internet, okay? Well, not completely before, but well before the Internet was a useful tool for the average tech-savvy person to use for research.  All my research was in person with physical books in libraries.

In the end, I managed to produce a map that did the job.

So… if you purchased a first edition of The Steerswoman, this is what you saw:



Sad. Very sad.  But the best I could do at that point.

And I discovered something: I liked doing it. It was fun.  And if you like something, you tend to get better at it.

Here’s the map that goes along with the The Steerswoman now:

Use CTL+ and CTL- to zoom in and out.

Click for full size, then CTL+ and CTL- to zoom in and out.

If you read the ebook on an iPad, or a Kindle Fire, this map is zoomable right in the book.  And you can zoom a lot. If you’re on a Kindle Paperwhite, or other non-color Kindle, it’s not zoomable — but still clear, and rather pretty (I also provide a URL to see the map online).

I’ve always had the idea that each book’s map will expand on the previous, so that your view of Rowan’s world will expand as her knowledge grows. When Del Rey did the omnibus of the first two books combined (as The Steerswoman’s Road) I had to combine the map for The Outskirter’s Secret with the map for The Steerswoman, and I feel we lost that sense of the world expanding. But now that they’re separate again as ebooks, I can have a different map for the second book again:


As ever, bigger is but a click away.

As ever, bigger is but a click away.


And by the time The Lost Steersman comes around:


Eastward expansion...

Eastward expansion…

Each map shows Rowan’s understanding of her world as of the beginning of the book (more or less).

The latest map, of course, is for The Language of Power —

Wait, do you really want to see that one? Because it contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The Lost Steersman!  If you haven’t read that yet, you might not want to go there…

Well, if you must, then click this link.

And what’s coming up?


Also, more detail.  As well as widening the view, the next books will include some closer views of important locations. Of course, I’m really looking forward to The Crags map, because of the extremely interesting way that city is laid out.

And in other news: Going to Worldcon!  I might not be able to post much for the next, although I should manage a tweet or two (I am @rkirstein).

Maybe I’ll see you there…






6 Responses to “On Maps”

  • David Says:

    I’m really looking forward to the book with the map of the Crags! I’m really hoping this is the year. 🙂

  • David Says:

    Also, I have admired your maps since the beginning. Lovely!

  • Lindig Says:

    I love maps and like watching the maps in your books expand as her knowledge does; very satisfying. Quinn Yarbro’s family had a cartography business so she grew up making maps, and does many for her St. Germain books, which range over 4000 years of Earth’s history — they’re great. Sadly, not all the books were allowed to have maps. More maps, I say! Have a great time at WorldCon.

  • Louisa Says:

    Any fantasy book that doesn’t have a map is a massive turn-off (particularly if I get the impression that the author doesn’t have a good idea of the layout of their own world). One of the things I love most about the Steerswoman books is the genuine sense of the distances involved, and I love any descriptions of Rowan’s mapmaking process. The maps in the books so far are lovely, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more detail in the new one – I’d be really interested to see what maps of towns look like when done by steerswomen.

  • Ben Says:

    Maps just make way too much sense for this series not to have them. It’s one of the few which I actually _looked_ at.

    Too often though fantasy series (…or SciFi, I guess, although they’re then usually star maps 😉 ) seem to have maps just for the sake of having maps; kinda like romance, elves with stupid ears and ugly book covers. One of those must haves, I suppose.

  • Laura Says:

    I must echo David’s comment and say I really hope this is the year we get to read about the Crags. I introduced my husband to your books and he looked at me in such consternation when he finished the Language of Power and wailed “what do you mean the next one isn’t out yet?!” I just laughed and told him I’ve been waiting since 2004. 😉