The gripping story plotted out in The Cartographers is the latest product of Peng Shepherd’s creative imagination, providing readers with many tantalizing twists and surprises along the way as she explores the intersection between science and art, mathematics and magic ... Shepherd’s latest novel is sometimes dark, describing mystical happenings that science cannot explain.
The Cartographers is a strong and original addition to the dark academia sub-genre, which spans fantasy, gothic literature, horror, thrillers, and speculative fiction ... The Cartographers teems with delicious dark academia standbys ... The book’s pacing is strong, even as Shepherd deals with two different narrative timelines with an ensemble cast of characters. I genuinely did not want to put it down, even if the ending got a bit tangled up in itself, then inexplicably segues into wrapping up a little too neatly. However, the entire premise is bit of a Gordian knot and the book is so entertaining, engaging, and at times chilling, even when the plot veers toward the ridiculous, so a slightly weak ending can absolutely be forgiven ... Shepherd’s strength lives in the foundational concept of her magical world making, which is that maps, old and new, shape the landscapes in the world and also our understanding of the all realities.
The Cartographers is, at its heart, about three things: family, found and otherwise; how much of one’s life can be built and balanced on a single lie; and the transformative nature of cartography. Its examination of this last aspect is what takes the book from an enjoyable, fast-paced (and fantastical) thriller to something you want to put down and think about before rereading it — snarling viciously at anyone who tries to pick it up before you can get that second pass. It’s brilliant ... One of the triumphs of The Cartographers is the exploration of what it means to make a map ... explores these questions with deep, vivid intensity; it will make you think twice about the power of paper maps, especially in a world where they’ve been supplanted by electronic devices ... Shepherd nails the sense of deep-seated, profound connection and love between a small group of people drawn together by shared experience and interest, creating an intense familial bond ... both beautiful and intellectual, and Shepherd sticks the landing in a deeply satisfying fashion.
Cleverly imagined ... With an elaborately realized plot, fanatic cartographers, maps with surreal powers generated by phantom settlements (intentional errors), and many-faceted suspense, Shepherd contrasts science and art, obsession and love in a bedazzling metaphysical tale of lost and found.
A campus novel, a library novel, a work of magical realism: Shepherd deftly blends all three in an engrossing tale involving maps, murders, and rooms that are not there ... Readers will be hooked and find their imaginations sparking as they turn the pages. Shepherd matches the drama and whimsy of the story with quick, straightforward prose that keeps her multilayered and accelerating plot neatly under control ... A shimmering delight, full of wonder, danger, and marvel. Suggest to readers of Erin Morgenstern, who has a similar ethos, and Natasha Pulley, who, like Shepherd, well knows how to end a story.
Ingenious and exhilerating ... The Cartographers is wildly imaginative and totally mind-bending in the best possible way. Shepherd has crafted a juicy mystery masquerading as a grown-up scavenger hunt filled with astonishing twists and revelations. The result is a romp that’s pure pleasure to read and will keep readers guessing—and gasping—as the map’s true power and beguiling history are brought to light.
Shepherd plots page-turning twists and revelations with ease and excels in her knowledge of historical maps and cartographical mysteries. The inclusion of map diagrams and detailed flashbacks carry the reader right alongside Nell as she attempts to disentangle an increasingly complex, slightly supernatural secret. In an author's note, Shepherd promises that 'something magical happens' when a person follows a map that lies, and this book will make you believe it. A highly inventive novel that pushes the boundaries of reality.