A review by middumullu
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

adventurous informative mysterious 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? It's complicated


The premise was really interesting and honestly carried the first half of the book - maps are so exciting and niche, so exploring that world was a really interesting subject. The deeper I got into reading it the worse it got, though :/.

The characters were all one dimensional and did not grow throughout the story. The antagonist was very one note and his motivations were really underdeveloped. Most characters were explained (Nell is a Young, therefore she is stubborn) instead of showing this trait for her. The romance subplots in the book also lacked any kind of tension, chemistry, or energy - I only felt any kind of real emotion between Nell and Felix when they were arguing. As for the other couples, WHOOO did they lack chemistry! They felt so contrived, especially the love triangle (?) with Romi, Francis, and Eve. I don't understand what draws any of these characters together, other than the plot dictating it. 

Now onto the tropes, oh the tropes. Nell's mother, Tamara, was burdened with the weight of the world with her story. First: she's the dead mother. Second: she's this brilliant and charismatic student that everyone loves. She did not feel like a real person, more of a vessel for other characters to go through emotions or problems.
It turns out she's alive the whole time which was a bad twist because of how predictable it was, and how unbelievable!
I had a lot of issues with her character lacking dimension and personality. The way that "found family" was used with the group of Tam and Daniel's college friends was told and not shown - it did not feel remotely real or close or dynamic, just like it wanted to jump onto the found family in academia trend. Just a bunch of people who we were told were smart and good at what they did but with no depth.

The world building was poor and I feel like it didn't hold up. Especially around the magic system - it was very loose in how it could be used and how it was practically applied in the story. There weren't any rules to how it worked, and any rules that were there shifted around according to what the plot necessitated. This was especially a problem towards the end of the book as the magic is explored more in depth. 

I also noticed three missing commas. That was just a little picky thing I got frustrated with. But it's all these little details that added up to make it not a very satisfying book, or even one that made a lot of sense when held up to a light. 

Expand filter menu Content Warnings