A review by sarahweyand
The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd

adventurous 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


I've been procrastinating writing this because I don't know where to start. This is a wonderful idea for a book and a magic system, so that's where the .5 extra stars comes in, but I can't properly describe how poorly executed this book is. The characters are flat, the romance is boring and undeserved, and the magic system is so vague and full of plot holes that nothing makes sense.

Our protagonist jumps to conclusions so fast that it's near impossible to follow her train of thought. The inciting incident for most of the plot, this 'junk box incident', makes zero sense in its fallout. Nell and Felix are INTERNS, barely out of college, and a single argument with her father "ruins" her entire career? What career? She's an intern! As our reveals happen, Nell forgives everyone pretty easily for all the horrible tings they've done and I just don't buy it.

SPOILER TERRITORY - magic system rant: 
 The best way I can think to express my absolute disdain for this magic system is to ask a list of questions that just shred any remaining idea that this magic was thought out:
- What if the Cartographers just drew Agloe as a dot on a piece of paper? Seems like infinite quick maps to me.
- How did Nell get 'trapped' in Agloe when the maps were destroyed, but the Cartographers didn't after the fire?
- If Nell is "trapped" in Agloe, can't she just follow the road out and...leave?
- Along these lines, can anyone make anything or alter reality? What about fantasy maps in books? Inaccurate historical maps? Poorly drawn maps by children?
- What determines if people can see the phantom settlement or not? Do they have to be looking at the map? Do they have to be within proximity of someone who is?
- If I was in the middle of a field and looked at a map that had a phantom settlement where I was standing, could the settlement appear suddenly and potentially kill me with an intersecting object?

I could keep going, but I'll stop.

Overall, this was poorly done. A cool concept and decent writing absolutely ruined by horrible execution.

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