Map's Edge

By David Hair

Map's Edge, a novel by David Hair
Book details Books in the series

Since the days of The Lord of the Rings the fantasy genre has had a close relationship with the idea of a fellowship of characters. A group of disparate people of all races brought together to fight for a common cause. This produces a sense of shared responsibility and brotherhood. Map’s Edge by David Hair takes this one step further and fosters a sense of community. The book may centre on a few characters, but it is all about the movement of a whole village to the end of the known world and beyond. Will the collective survive, never mind the individuals? 

Dashryn Cowl is on the run with his daughter and is already on the edge of the map. He was on the losing side of a war he believed he had left far behind. However, when his old enemy the Bolgravian Empire arrive at his door, it is time to move on once more, but this time they bring an opportunity of great wealth and vengeance. This small group of Bolgravians have stumbled across a potential stash of istariol, the vital ingredient needed for sorcery and it is increasingly rare. The only issue that Dashryn has is that this is more than a one-man operation. He is going to need an entire village to find and mine all that istariol. Luckily for him, he is surrounded by just the type of people who want to walk off the edge of the map. 

Map’s Edge is in many ways structured like many other modern fantasy novels. We follow the story from several viewpoints and from both side of the conflict. Where it differs is that it gives these characters a sense of communal responsibility. Dashryn becomes a de facto leader to a reasonably large group of people, he has his own selfish aims, but is also a good enough person to look after others. He would argue that he was on the right side of the war – why become just like the enemy to win? 

Toran Zorne plays a similar role for the Bolgravians as a zealot for the cause. As a master of disguise, he is used to infiltrating the enemy and staying hidden. Although not the most sympathetic character you get the sense that he believes he is in the right. There are no bad guys, just people doing what they think is correct. 

After the initial set up the book takes a Western style as the wagons roll East off the edge of the map. A large community of disparate people are slowing making their way across uncharted land, all the time being pursued by the enemy’s military force. This leads to some great bottleneck scenarios as our travellers must turn around and discourage their pursuers. This is done in part by using magic. Hair has created an intelligent and interesting style of magic for the book. It is powerful, but limited. This not only gives the book its fantasy credentials, but also opens the story up to the world’s past as we discover what is limiting this magic. Who were the mysterious people that lived before who seemed to have it in abundance? 

The world building is also well done as it comes in two parts: the known and the unknown. The characters know all about the current conflicts and powers, but they do not know what is off the edge of the map. As a reader we learn with them. Many of the perils and spectacles they witness are new, so come as a surprise to both character and reader. It is fun to discover as they do, rather than having the entire world mapped out already. 

With its multiple viewpoints and use of magic, in many ways The Map’s Edge is your typical fantasy book, and any fan of the genre will enjoy it. It is the introduction of community and the unknown that set it apart. I really enjoyed the idea of collective responsibility and it gave the book a different feel in places. It is refreshing to read a book that have characters who feel a responsibility to others as well as themselves. 

Written on 14th January 2021 by .

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