The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Part mystery, part fantasy, this book was a delight. It reminded me of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, in that, it’s a story of seven friends who are holding secrets, some deadly. It uses the very real use of phantom settlements, towns that are put in by the mapmaker as a way to copyright their work. Which also made me think of Paper Towns by John Green. In fact, both of those books use the town of Agloe in their stories. But this story has a little more magic to it.

The numbered chapters are written from Nell’s perspective, the daughter of two members of the group as she uncovers the mystery behind the old gas station map. This map cost her a job at the Map Division of the New York Public Library and estranged her from her father for seven years. It also includes short chapters in between from the perspective of the seven different friends, each named for the friend who is speaking to Nell, revealing more of the story that happened decades before. When her mother died saving her from a fire.

The plot is well-paced, and the POV chapters break up the story a bit, to allow for more context. Some of the plot twists were predictable, and there is a part of the story towards the end (no spoilers, no worries) that felt rushed to tie up loose ends. The relationship with Felix was also a little frustrating, though I do like how he and Nell end up at the end.

I would recommend anyone who enjoyed The Secret History or Paper Towns, or anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a little bit of magic.


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