Reviews

The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd

kenishsuri's review

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medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

1.0

Plot Hole Galore: Do not waste your time!

Initially, I thought 2 stars but after letting it marinate overnight, 1 it is!

The title was my hook - I was eager to learn about maps and cartography. The premise of the book is riveting + it is inspired by actual events. Sadly, this book just misses on all counts...

Not only is this story packed to the brim with plot holes, but also leaves the reader frustrated. After several explanations, you are just left with asking the same question over and over again - "but why?"

Peng Shepherd had an amazing concept before she injected it with heaps of bloat to appeal to several types of readers. If this book was a map, it takes you in circles and shows you boring stopovers along the journey before reaching a lacklustre destination.

I wish I had watched Liene's review before starting this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0l7X...

Quote:

“Could a perfect map only be developed for a perfect world? Or would the perfect map make the world within it perfect?”

kimhbourne's review

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2.0

I didn't really get this book. Character motivations didn't make much sense, and end reveal was pretty obvious.

sheilabmcc's review

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1.0

I hated it. I hated it so much. It was such a disappointment. This took the actual very interesting story of Agloe, added magic, and somehow made it SO BORING.

I’m also not convinced that any of the five star reviews actually read the same book I did. Maybe they got a phantom book. Because the one I read was poorly written (shoes were described as soaked to the bone. SHOES.) There were SO many plot holes. (Nell wasn’t even employed as a cartographer despite constantly saying she was). People die but the author couldn’t even be bothered to come up with a cause of death?? The characters were immature and stupid. You’re trying to tell me a woman with a PhD and a map obsession has never heard of phantom settlements?? This made my brain hurt.

Seven years ago, Nell was an intern with a PhD in Cartography at the New York Public Library. She finds the infamous “junk box” in the basement, finds some valuable maps and a worthless gas station map. Her dad claims they are all worthless but she’s embarrassed because she already bragged to her colleagues. She won’t back down (because Young’s are *stubborn*) and they get into a screaming match at their place of work. The boss demands she gets fired. Somewhere in there her boyfriend, Felix, her dad doesn’t know about, defends her and is also fired. Their careers are ruined! *gasp* Felix moves out of their apartment, breaks up with her in a letter and they never speak again.

She also never speaks to her father again.

Then seven years later he dies.

She steals his leather portfolio from the secret drawer in his office and finds none other than the gas station map. Dun dun dun.

She does some digging (puts it up on the database to be petty and show the worthless junk her dad was working on when he died) and finds out that all two hundred and something maps at other locations are all either lost or stolen. How weird.

The next day the NYPL is broken into and the security guard is killed. But there’s no way he could have gotten into the building. She reaches out to her ex boyfriend to take a look and see what he can make out of it. This is my first major issue with the book. Nell was wrong to have a meltdown about the map but that had nothing to do with her relationship with Felix. He was immature and cruel when he left her AFTER YEARS in a letter because he blamed her for him getting fired. So the *spark* they felt and the set up for them to rekindle their relationship is the first thing that bothered me. At the time I was willing to overlook this and I still was enjoying the book. (As the book goes on, their relationship gets worse. He says that she chose the map (remember the one she thought was useless and didn’t speak to him about before she confronted her dad) over their relationship. When she said she’d give the director the map and she didn’t he accuses her of once again picking the map over their relationship. He says she just wants someone to order around. Despite the fact that he literally leaves her every time he doesn’t get his way. Why is he perceived as a good guy throughout this book?? Nell believes what he spews and thinks she’s wrong. At one point her mentor, Swan, tells her not to stand in the way of them being together like she has for the last seven years. And then she goes and believes that somehow it was her fault they weren’t together all that time. What?!?! Why is this being perceived as healthy?! Felix sucks and their relationship sucks. And they have zero chemistry.)

From there Nell “investigates.” She finds out about her parent’s history. They were part of a group of friends who called themselves The Cartographers. She meets them. They keep talking about the danger she’s in. Constantly. They each tell part of their stories without saying much at all. There’s so much mention of danger in this book without any stakes introduced.

Turns out they rented a house, found Agloe (a town you can only get to if you hold the map), and their relationship fell apart after a series of betrayals. Wally becomes obsessed with keeping it a secret so he uses his wealth to buy and steal and murder for the rest in turn calling more attention to the map. There’s a fire. Nell’s mom dies. Wally wants the map. Grave danger.

My major problem with this book is that Wally is set up as the villain just so the story has a villain. There are no stakes, no mention of WHY he shouldn’t have the map. No exploration into the magic system. It’s mentioned his company makes Amazon look small. So this is a man with more power and wealth than one of the wealthiest people in the world, but we’re supposed to care if he finds Agloe again?? It’s a stupid empty boring town that I literally could not care less about. He can already do whatever he wants. Why do we care if he gets the map? People are throwing themselves into danger but it’s never been told why he shouldn’t get the map.

The showdown is not well throughout and unclear. Why does Nell need to be the one who scans the map?

This story pretends it’s about how maps bring people together but all it shows is how it tears people apart. Nell’s mom is *shocker* still alive. She choose to live by herself for 30 years without her husband and let her daughter think she was dead for Agloe. A. Literal. Empty. Town. How is this enforcing the message of the book???

prairieraven's review

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adventurous informative inspiring mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

audieeee's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging emotional mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

katrinarose's review against another edition

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adventurous lighthearted mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

2.0

If I had read this is middle school I probably would have loved it, given it 4 stars. It has a fun original premise with an intriguing murder mystery and it’s very fast-paced and engaging. Now though, I can’t look past the gaping plot holes, cringey dialogue, questionable “magic” system, and bad character development. Most, if not all of the major conflict in the book would have been resolved if people just talked to each other. Even after it was “explained” later why (can’t say why - spoiler) Nell’s father fired her, ruined her professional and romantic life and cut her out of his life altogether for 10 years, the explanation makes no sense. This is the foundation for a large portion of the book and it is just stupid. All the character’s motivations were so underdeveloped. Another reason why this felt like a middle grade book is because every character acts and talks like a high schooler at the oldest. But Nell is supposed to be 35?! And everyone else is that age or older? I don’t understand why the author chose to make them that old when the story would’ve worked if Nell was 21 years old and at least we can imagine that her prefrontal cortex was not yet done developing to explain the stupid stuff she does. If I got more into the plot I could rant more but I don’t want to hate on it too much, at the end of the day it’s a cute little middle grade mystery that I’d recommend for those ages and that’s it.

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excommunicaited's review

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medium-paced

5.0

Hard to put down

bookslayer's review

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mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.75

meredithamadee's review

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adventurous mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

Overall, I thought this was a great idea but am disappointed in the execution. There were so many elements to the story that were deemed as important but I didn’t feel like I, as the reader, really understood why. For example, we are supposed to believe that Nell and Felix have this great love but we hardly get any insight into their relationship. We also learn of this group of 7 “found family” friends but we don’t really learn what actually brings them together besides their shared interest. We hear about Nell and Felix’ deep devotion to NYPL and Swann and how much they remember the place, but they haven’t been there in 7 years? I really liked the idea and the mystery and appreciated all the twists and turns of the story but the “magic” left me confused and I don’t feel like it was ever really explained. Overall, good idea but the writing left the characters and story feeling forgettable for me.

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catheryne's review against another edition

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hopeful mysterious medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0