|Marrakesh, just off Dancers Way.|
Thus it was that when I started creating a setting for Giant Thief, geographical logic wasn't exactly the first thing on my mind. I was determined that it wouldn't be yet another thinly veiled Northern European landscape; as a Fantasy reader, I'd grown tired of those. I also knew I wanted a recognizably real-world setting, not an alien planet or any such completely alternate reality. Lastly, I didn't want the setting to dominate the story too much; I was more interested in building the characters and keeping the plot rolling than spending page upon page describing trees.
In short, I was after somewhere familiar, but not too familiar. So rather than take any one country for a model, I decided I'd pick and choose depending on what I needed at any given moment. My only real limitations were a vague notion of climate - warm, but not tropical - and a desire to keep things simple. A river valley seemed a safe bet for the latter, and putting it all together allowed me to throw in dense forests, high mountains and even a few stray cacti (cactus? cactuses?*) with abandon. Mediterranean Europe was a big influence, as was Mexico, and North Africa supplied a lot of my architecture, especially the bigger buildings.
|Outside Marrakesh. Or possibly Muena Palaiya.|
So it's with considerable relief that - thanks to the miracle of my retrospective research trip to Marrakesh, as detailed here - I can reveal that, rubbish though my geography may be, the setting of my Damasco books does just about hang together. And, if there had been a real-world model for the Castoval, its neighbouring country Pasaeda and the far-northern land of Shoan, (home of a certain invading warlord and set to play a very big part in Prince Thief), it would have been Morocco.
|The Atlas mountains, south of Altapasaeda.|
Needless to say, if I'm every asked about any of this, I'll strenuously deny it and claim that the Castoval was based on Morocco all along.
* Strictly speaking, grammatical fact fans, all three are correct!