Book Review: The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Reviewed: March 28th, 2022
Released: March 17th, 2022
Genre: Contemporary fiction with a touch of magic

There are some maps you can lose yourself in…

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 . . .

THE CARTOGRAPHERS is a story about Art and Science: where they meet, how they both enrich our lives, and how each defines the other. And it’s a book about the mystery, history, and ineffable romance of maps.

Helen’s thoughts: 3/5

I was so excited to read this book. I love maps and the idea that maps hold secrets and can magically create new places was a wonderful premise.

The world of maps is very intriguing, and you don’t actually realise the many facets that are involved to create one and Shepherd creates an intriguing environment entwined with a group of engaging characters.

The characters are sympathetic, and the view into the world of cartography and libraries was interesting, though the thought of using washing up gloves to hold rare items jars a bit!

I devoured the book, it flowed so well, and the flashbacks from the viewpoint of the original students gave the story a sense of memoirs and old history which complimented the mystery at the heart of the story.

Without giving spoilers, I just don’t understand why Nell’s parents did what they did. It doesn’t make sense to me, and so many people died because of their choice. I suppose if they hadn’t made that decision, there wouldn’t have been a story. Nell’s father’s reaction to cast her out seemed a bit extreme when all he had to do was take her aside and explain, or at least make up some explanation! His daughter was old enough to understand. I would even go to say his reaction drew attention to the very thing he was trying to hide (though still not sure why!) and put her at more risk. This spoiled it for me, in that the plot wasn’t quite believable nor a pivotal decision that made sense.

That being said, it is a beautifully written book, the characters were developed very well, the mystery draws you in and the possibilities keep you reading. Nell has all my sympathy and it was lovely to see she was just as stubborn and driven as her parents. If you’re not too bothered by the plot then this is a terrific read, and that cover is gorgeous!

All in all, a good read, though one that still has me puzzling over the plot!

About the author:

Peng was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet, and has lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York. Her first novel, THE BOOK OF M, won the 2019 Neukom Institute for Literary Arts Award for Debut Speculative Fiction, and was chosen as a best book of the year by Amazon, Elle, Refinery29, and The Verge, as well as a best book of the summer by the Today Show and NPR On Point. A graduate of the NYU MFA program, Peng is the recipient of a 2020 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Elizabeth George Foundation’s emerging writers 2016 grant.

If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my epic fantasy Sentinal series. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next books are published.

Success! You're on the list.