Barry Cunliffe’s On the Ocean: the Mediterranean and the Atlantic from prehistory to AD 1500 makes an interesting choice in perspective for their original maps. They orient the maps not to the north, as is standard in modern practice, but with west at the top. The setting sun. For untold thousands of years, the end of the known world. Why shouldn’t it be the most important place on the map?
If you bring up the advent of the compass, bear in mind that in Han China where it was invented, south was declared to be the top of maps. Different cultures have different perspectives. Sometimes literally.
As human beings we tend to both poke at and recoil from different perspectives. We assume that ours works the best – after all, we’re still alive – but we can’t help but wonder if there’s some new advantage or monster around the corner that a stranger might know about and we don’t. Yet. And we’d rather not find out the hard way. It’s human to be very curious about strangers. To the point that local strongmen (warlords, barons, kings, what have you) would often host strangers from far away, to hear what they knew, and what they thought. Because sometimes having a different perspective lets you solve problems no one else could.
Bear in mind, I’m not saying you should put west-oriented maps in your fantastic fiction. Part of the reason On the Ocean’s maps are so visually effective is you’re mentally comparing them to familiar maps of the Atlantic and Mediterranean basin. On a fictional map, whether planet or fantasy kingdom, it wouldn’t be nearly as effective, because there’s no original basis for comparison.
(Huh. Maps as a fanfiction of the planet. Odd thought.)
But if you do draw a map, or crib one from reality with a few alterations, try mentally placing your characters in that map. Work out which directions are the most important to them, and to the people around them. Which part of the sky warns you of bad weather first? What direction will the bandits ride in from? What terrain will a passing army favor – and where should you be to stay well out of their way?
(Because historically speaking armies are a bunch of very unhappy people feeling very deprived, and not all commanders can ride herd on their men well enough to stop chickens from going missing and girls being cornered in the fields or back alleys. Or want to, even if they can. Disciplined armies who aren’t supposed to touch civilians are a very recent thing.)
You have to strike a balance between presenting a new and unique perspective, and writing a story your readers can viscerally get. It’s not easy, but when it works, it’s worth it.
You might even think of yourself as one of those strangers in court; Telemachus hosted by King Nestor, or Marco Polo in the court of Kubilai Khan. You’re the guest. Part of your duty is to be polite… but also part is to say things your hosts would never.
Examine perspectives in your story. See how the map can change things!