The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd – Book Review

Title: The Cartographers (review copy)

Author: Peng Shepherd

Genre/Themes: Mystery, Adventure, Fantastical, Magical Realism, Paranormal

Blurb from Goodreads

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.

My Review

Peng Shepherd’s first novel, The Book of M, is one of my absolute favourites. It’s a great twisty dystopian style speculative fiction and is so worth a read. So when I saw her upcoming novel The Cartographers available on NetGalley I hit that request button so hard!

The Cartographers is a seriously addictive read. By about chapter three I was utterly hooked and desperate to inhale the book as quickly as possible because I absolutely needed to know what was going on and how everything would pan out ASAP.

I don’t wish to ruin the plot for anyone so all I’ll say is it’s the story of a disgraced cartographer named Nell who is trying to solve the mystery behind her super famous cartographer Dad’s murder. The mood of the book is sort of Indiana Jones (film) meets A Night at the Museum (film) with a sprinkling of The Shadow of the Wind (book) and a dollop of The Da Vinci Code (book).

And so for the most part I really enjoyed this book. The first 40-50% or so was great. I was super invested in the characters and the fantastical plot… also yes, belief needs to be suspended for this read because it’s heavy on the fantastical even though it’s a modern day setting in our world! I guess sort of a magical realism vibe.

But the further I read the more the story got sort of bogged down. Plot developments and/or twists were basically signposted chapters in advance so the book lost its air of magic and mystery. It just took too long to get to the climax of the story as pages and pages of narrative were given over to tedious exposition.

And as for the ending… yeah wasn’t a fan.

It felt too neat and tidy, and frankly rather illogical. And LOL at that supposed comeuppance of the “baddie”…. It was just laughably weak.

And yes I know, it’s a storyline that is heavy on the fantastical side of things so maybe one could argue that logic isn’t high on the author’s priorities, but doesn’t a fantastical setting still have to make sense? Follow its own rules and parameters?

Instead the book ended with quite a lot of plot holes and illogical outcomes. For me the ending was a damp squib sadly which I’m terribly disappointed by because so much of this book was brilliant.

The overall idea of the plot is fabulous… but sadly it just wasn’t executed to the same high standard that was seen in Shepherd’s debut novel.

A strong start with a disappointing ending.

*An e-copy was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley for honest review*

Publication Date 17th March 2022 Orion Publishing Group

Other Works by Peng Shepherd I’ve Reviewed

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