The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd–After The Last Page Book Review

  • Peng Shepherd
  • Mystical Realism
  • Fiction, based on a true story
  • History/Map Making
  • Combines multiple fantasy tropes

“The more accurate a map is, the more powerful we understand it to be–that is, the world is what makes the map real. But Otto G. Lindberg achieved something even more spectacular, even if it was by serendipity. His map made part of the world real, at least for a little bit, and proved that even in this day and age, there are still secrets to be discovered within the folds of their pages. And that seems pretty magical to me.”

Peng Shepherd, The Cartographers (391)


Have you ever wondered the purpose of a map?

This is what Dr. Nell Young seeks to discover after finding an old, worthless highway map, hidden in her father’s desk—seven years after she last spoke with him.

When Nell gets a phone call at work from the New York Police Department, the last thing she expects to hear is her father’s unexpected passing. After all, she hasn’t talked to her father in years—not since an incident at the New York Public Library, shortly after her she began working as an intern there, years ago—the very scene that destroyed her relationship, her budding cartography career, and any affiliation with her famous cartographer father. Yet, even with her unfortunate history with the highway map, Nell can’t help but investigate. If her father hated this map so much, why was it hidden from sight in his desk all these years later?

The Cartographers follows Nells journey as she tries to uncover the map’s meaning to her father and its secret value. The novel follows Nell on twists and turns as she unearths new clues that she hopes will lead her to an answer, and what might have happened to her family. Defying her father’s wishes and trying to outsmart a secret collector that wants her map—the only copy left in the world—Nell works to find the meaning of places hidden right in front of her.


4/5 stars

I’ll admit, this book probably wouldn’t have been my first choice. Yet, the reason I subscribe to Book of The Month is to try new genres and explore new authors I may not have picked up on my own. While I was lucky enough to get an early read of this book through my subscription (the book releases on March 15, 2022), I have no doubt that it will catch speed quickly among readers of many genres.

It’s not often that I find a book that captures multiple genres well, but The Cartographers does just that. For the first 100 pages, the reader assumes the book is a mystery, though it’s classified as fantasy. The Novel is not written in the deep, serious dramatic tone that many mysteries envelop with open arms—so where does the fantasy come from? Nell’s point of view is inquisitive, yet innocent, as she revisits the people and places she hasn’t seen in years. In the aftermath of her father’s death, Nell is surprisingly connected to the map she finds, despite her mixed emotions.

While I do like the way Shepherd crafts the plotline, as I was reading, I often wondered whether a real character would have made some of the choices that Nell made—and that was where I believed the fantasy fit in. Yet, as the book continues, the plot line gains speed. Though it starts off slow, about half-way through, the reader has no choice but to sit and finish this book in one sitting. Through twists and turns, it’s impossible not to fall in love with the main character and the many unusual events that her own father kept from her to keep her safe. While I didn’t love the ending of this novel, The Cartographers was something unexpected in the best way. Combining mystery, fiction, history, and fantasy (and a little romance, too), Shepherd crafts a story that readers will fall in love with.

I highly recommend checking out this book in stores and online on March 15, 2022 and picking up a copy for yourself if you haven’t pre-ordered already.

Looking for your next read? Check out our last review, Just Haven’t Met You Yet.

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