REVIEW: The Cartographers

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Bouncing back and forth between old reviews to catch up on and new reads that I just finished. This is a new one, because I just couldn’t wait.

About the Book

The CartographersTitle: The Cartographers

Author: Peng Shepherd

Series: none

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy

Pages: 392

Edition Read: Hardcover

Dates Read: September 2 – 9, 2022

Blurb: 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.

But why?

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…

From the critically acclaimed author of The Book of M, a highly imaginative thriller about a young woman who discovers that a strange map in her deceased father’s belongings holds an incredible, deadly secret—one that will lead her on an extraordinary adventure and to the truth about her family’s dark history.


This book completely surprised me, but that is mostly my fault. When reading about it on GoodReads, I read the blurb but did not take a look at the genre tags. Because of this, I was expecting a straight up murder mystery. This book definitely is a murder mystery, don’t get me wrong, but it also takes a sudden and hard turn in the middle that I was not expecting and didn’t quite know about to feel about.

Starting off with the good things about this book. I loved Nell. She is a very complex person. An academic elitist to a degree, expecting to join her father at in the New York Public Library’s Map Division as a cartographer, now having to work for a copy artist making cheap copies of maps to hang in people’s homes. She has sold out, in a way, to make ends meet and her frustration is palpable. Her relationship with her father is very strange and throughout the book you find out exactly why.

I also just love books that are set in and around libraries. Not to mention that I absolutely love the NYPL – the Schwarzman building at Bryant Park on 5th Avenue is absolutely an icon of the city.

nypl lion

One of the famous lion statues outside the NYPL. He’s totally not judging the state of your TBR right now.

When I say that this book took a sharp turn in the middle, it almost felt like the entire book shifted to another story in a completely separate genre. I enjoyed both sides of the story, but it was a bit jarring at first. It’s hard to talk about it in specifics without spoiling a bunch of plot points. I will say that if anyone has read Paper Towns by John Green, then you will know what Agloe, New York is and why it might be significant to someone who studies and draws maps. It figures prominently in this story.

There were also a lot of plot twists that I did not see coming, mostly having to do with the identities of certain characters (including the bad guy). The ending was super ambiguous and a little confusing – it sort of bended the rules of the magical realism a bit. Or actually quite a lot. Not enough to make me not like the book, just enough to make me scratch my head a little and question some of the decisions made by the characters.

All in all, I found this to be a fascinating book, one that I would never have picked up if it wasn’t part of the Seasonal Reading Challenge. I love finding new things!

GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Categories: Books I've Read

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