A review by mbmayo
The Cartographers, by Peng Shepherd

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


Nell is a woman in her thirties, drawn back into her past life as an academic cartographer after her estranged father dies. A map hidden in his possession sets off a race for answers.

I can certainly agree with many of the criticisms of low rating reviewers. This was a plot heavy book with minimal character development. The characters we meet as adults bear little resemblance to their young adult selves. One of the twists is foreshadowed well enough that it is easily predictable within the first quarter of the book. The magic system can be wishy washy and you can't think about it too hard or it all falls apart.
Spoiler For example, in the fire where Tam disappears, Agloe disappears around everyone else because they think all the copies of the map are destroyed. However, decades later when Nell tears up the gas station map, the city doesn't disappear around them, because there's still one more map, even though they don't know where it is and thus can't use it.

But, those didn't ruin my enjoyment of the book. I did wish we had gotten chapters from the point of view of Daniel, Swann, Wally, or Tam. I think this would have really rounded out the motivations of the characters. Overall, I found it a fun read, one of those "Medium paced" books that's actually a slow build to a sprint at the end.

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