Blurb Book Review: The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd (spoilers ahead)

Image from Goodreads.com

It’s been a while since I finished a book. I’ve been busy planning for my first ever vacation and that’s taken up most of my brain power. I did finish this one, though.

When maps are made, the cartographer will often add a town that doesn’t exist as a way of copyrighting the map. These tows, in real life, are called Paper Towns and sometimes a town will sprout up in that location. In this novel, extra rooms or towns are called ‘phantom settlements’ and they can only be accessed by viewing the map as you go to the location.

I thought that was a really cool concept. Rooms that don’t exist unless you have the map? Fantastic! But the book’s focus was heavily romantic rather than magical realism. So heavily romantic that I think the book should be shelved under romance, not mystery.

The constant hand-wringing of the main character, Nell, got really annoying really fast. Sure, she had a relationship with another character, Felix, and when they were both fired from New York Public Library their relationship ended….but could there be more? Could they be together again? Could they ever love again? If you like romance, you’d appreciate this far more than I did. I just wanted to get on with the story about magic rooms.

In addition to my irk about romance, the author overused several phrases to the point where I was rolling my eyes by the end. You don’t need to tell me the ‘lion statues flanked the stone steps’ more than once. I can remember where the lion statues were once I’ve been told. I don’t need to hear about how Nell was so tiny that she drowned in her oversize cardigan more than once. Please use a different method of describing her, thank you. But for romance, this fits I guess.

The plot was a bit weak. Nell finds a bunch of maps in a dusty storage area of NYPL and brings them to her father, who heads the department. He pitches a fit over them. She fights him on them. Felix backs her up. Her dad has them both fired and shunned in the industry.

That seemed over the top. I mean, wouldn’t the father find a better way of dealing with these maps – one of which holds the secret to a missing town – than making a big stink about it? His insistence that it’s worthless only makes Nell investigate the map.

We find out later that Nell’s mom was in that magic town when all the maps to it burned. She died as a result. And since you can’t go to the town without the map, it was lost forever. The group of friends mapping the place out all go their separate ways and live their lives.

But then Nell investigates and discovers not all the maps were lost. One of them was in that bunch she found at NYPL.

I felt like the book took a long time to get where it was going. A lot of stuff could have been edited out as it was just repetitious. The climax was interesting but not particularly shocking.

Again, if you like romance, this might be an interesting mystery/romance for you. For me, I just wanted more action and focus on magic rooms and towns.