The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd was a book that absolutely blew me away. It wasn’t necessarily an easy read – for reasons to do more with me than the book, but one that was incredibly rewarding. It is on the literary end of genre fiction, but as you get into the story, it is clear that this is a work of speculative fiction, and I adored the magic of maps.
Huge thanks to Alainna at Orion for sending me a review copy and having me on the blog tour. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 17/03/2022
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Nell Young has lived her life in and around maps. Her father, Dr. David Young, was one of the most respected cartographers in the world. But this morning he was found dead – or murdered? – in his office at the New York Public Library.
Nell hadn’t spoken to her father in years, ever since he fired her after an argument over a seemingly worthless highway roadside map. A map which was mass-produced – and every copy of which is now being found and destroyed. But why?
To answer that question, Nell will embark on a dangerous journey into the heart of a conspiracy beyond belief, the secrets behind her family, and the true power that lies in maps… (from Orion)
OPINIONS: I think I haven’t savoured a book as much as I have The Cartographers in quite some time. Set around the NYPL – one of my favourite places in New York – and maps, this book is a love letter to people who are passionate about niche things, those who love hiding in archives and behind books. It is nuanced and delightful, tragic and compelling, all in all one of my new favourite books. Growing up I’ve always had a special connection to maps as, in the years before Google Maps, my parents would make me get out an atlas and figure it out whenever I asked where a certain place was. Add in to that that my mum was a geographer who had worked on maps and a love for them was born early – these days, I mainly look at old maps, but have had some sort of map on my walls for most of my adult life. Thus, I easily dived into The Cartographers, connecting with the characters’ passion for the obscure art.
This is both a work that dives into themes of dark academia and magic, as well as a thriller. Nell, the main character, gets sucked into a world where she is in constant danger, where people around her start dying – and all because of a map. But what is the secret of this weird piece of paper, one that was sold at gas stations? It’s not like it’s a traditional treasure map… And The Cartographers keeps the truth about the map from you for a long time. It focuses on telling its story, on setting up the characters past and present over revealing too much too soon. And ultimately, the mystery isn’t the most important part of the book. It is about relationships, about trust, about following your dreams more than that. It’s good enough that I guessed a major part of the resolution early on, and it did not take away from my enjoyment of the story at all – The Cartographers is a story that is about the journey, not the destination.
Oh, the writing. It is clean but compelling, literary without overdoing it. Shepherd manages to hit that balance and provide readers with a book that is compulsively readable, magical, but also sparse and leaving the reader to wonder within the confines of the world. I absolutely loved The Cartographers, stayed up far too late to finish it, and now I want to read anything Peng Shepherd has written. A book that hurt me, that made me feel all the emotions and most definitely gave me a book hangover. Five bloddy stars.