The Cartographers | Review
Rating - ⭐⭐⭐
"What is the purpose of a map?
Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.
But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence... because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.
To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps."
The Cartographers is a standalone mystery novel by Peng Shepherd.
This is a book full to the brim with interesting concepts and potential, but one that ultimately failed in execution for me. When I first started reading this, I thought that this was going to be at least a 4-star read, however, the further I got into it, the more my initial intrigue waned.
What I was left with was a 3-star read, which is a bit of a generous rating to boot. A lot of the potential it had ended up being ruined by a frustrating main character, and an odd choice of storytelling and direction.
Let's get into the details.
As I said in the introduction, I had issues with the way the author chose to tell the story. We mainly follow the main character in the present, but in order to fully unravel the plot, we had to delve into the past. My issue with that was that instead of the past being recounted in the present, you get a very odd change in perspective and tone.
The chapter perspective changes to whoever is recounting the past, but it is simultaneously told in both the past and present. I am explaining this horribly, but it was a mix of a past time period, with present dialogue. All in all, while it might have worked for a movie or TV show where you get a voice-over, it just came off as odd in a written format.
While my interest in the story dropped, this did have a rather solid introduction. The first chapter did a great job at introducing you to the main character, as well as diving right into the catalyst for the story. That momentum keeps you going as the mystery of the map keeps you in the story. After that initial intrigue fizzled away and the mystery was well on its way, the story just wasn't very interesting to me anymore.
The magic that this story delves into is such an interesting idea, and it is a shame that it just didn't make for the story it could have been. I just didn't end up caring about the direction the story went in. Some aspects of it as well I feel like could have been removed entirely or changed, such as all the romantic drama which just ended up bogging down the story
I also felt like the story got a bit stuck between two places. The past and the present are supposed to be interconnected, but they didn't quite mesh together seamlessly (most likely due to the way the book was written). The story also leaned in a bit too much into the past, which ended up taking away from Nell's story.
Finally, the ending was open and was in no way satisfactory. While it might not bother some people, it is not my cup of tea at all.
I didn't care for not one single character in this. I wouldn't say they were badly written or not fleshed out enough, I just didn't think they were interesting enough to hold my attention. Nell, being the main character, was no different as I found her to be rather frustrating. I understand that she acted the way she did in order to advance the story, but she was stubborn and rather clueless.
As for the big bad of the story, which I can't go into too much detail with, I don't think it was handled particularly well. The character just didn't have much depth and was watered down to just a simple unhinged and obsessed character.
This could have been great. It had a fantastic premise, but it just didn't fully reach its potential.