Inspiration -- Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
In many ways, it is Kay that feeds me the most inspiration for this setting, given that he writes fantasy novels that are, to varying degrees, based in real history. Kay himself began his career as Christopher Tolkien's assistant, helping to edit and compile The Simarillion. Nice work if you can get it.
Tigana was Kay's 4th book, published in 1990 after he had completed The Finoavar Tapestry. It was actually the third kay book I read, after The Lions of al-Rassan and The Last Light of the Sun (both of which will get their own entry here). Tigana is based on medieval Italy, with a confederation of city states pit against one another, all of whom are under the thumb of two invading powers. Each of those powers is ruled by a sorcerer-king, who are bitter rivals in their own right. The protagonists -- a young actor, a singer, and a courtesan of one of the sorcerer kings -- are all connected to the lost realm of Tigana. During the invasion of the Peninsula of the Palm, one of the sorceror kings lost his son in the battle to conquer Tigana. The sorceror retaliated by using his magic to literally wipe the city-state from memory. Tragially, those who lived in Tigana at the time of its fall can remember their home, but cannot speak of it to anyone not from the city-state. Everyone else has forgotten the place ever existed. The plot revolves around the singer (a lost prince of Tigana) and his effort to restore his home by uniting the city-states and killing the sorcerors.
I appropriated the "forgotten land" conceit for a short-lived Dungeons and Dragons game I ran a few years ago. In addition to the historical details in Tigana that I want to use to provide atmosphere to elements of this setting, there are certainly other things I'm considering. The idea of magic being very rare, very powerful, and draining is one that I'll certainly use. I'm kicking around the idea of having heredity play a role in magic. I'm also considering the idea of the rareness of magic being somewhat intentional. In Tigana the sorcerer-kings can sense when others are using magic, with varying degrees of success due to proximity and power. They employ agents to hunt down and capture or kill those who try and use magic who aren't under their control. This is similar to the Bondsmagi in Scott Lynch's work, who maintain a monopoly on magic with brutal force while selling their talents to anyone with enough coin. Don't mess with these guys.
Kay is a big reason I'm trying to do this setting in this particular way. Tigana is a wonderful book.