Review: The Cartographers

Cartography, at its heart, was about defining one’s place in the world by creating charts and measurements. Nell had lived her life by that idea, that everything could be mapped according to references and thereby understood. But she could see now that she had been paying attention to the wrong references.
It was not a map alone that made a place real.
It was the people.

This is a tricky one to review. It’ll take some minor spoilers.

In a nutshell (if you want to completely avoid spoilers), it’s a decent book with a fascinating premise that could have done so much more for the actual execution.

Plus side: I love the premise. Take the idea of phantom settlements / copyright traps. Now make it so that if you happen to have the right map–you can actually get to those phantom settlements. I may have to check out Paper Towns.

Minus side: it takes forever to actually get to the magic of the book. You (as the reader) are sure there’s more to them than you’d think, either having read the blurb–or just being aware of the book’s genre. But for how magical a concept it is, we barely get anything to do with them until halfway through the book and even then we’re only touching the surface.

Also… they never really dig into what the actual rules of magical maps are. Can anyone doodling a map make one? How big can they be? What can you put in them? What happens if you modify the maps? Destroy them? They do finally get to that at the end again… but I wanted more.

Plus side: having a whole friend group turned family of PhD level academics for protagonists and allies is fun.

Minus side: they’re… not actually (for the most part) actually cartographers? They archive maps, they love maps, but… they mostly don’t make maps. Despite how much the main character thinks everyone would look down on her knockoff job… she’s one of the few actually doing the closest thing to cartography

Also, I know that having a PhD doesn’t necessary make you smart–just really really perhaps even stupidly dedicated to your line of research. But man. I don’t get some of these characters. The villain’s motivation–especially over decades doesn’t make sense to me. Tamara deciding to stay behind... for *decades* is *also* dumb. She had a *child*. .

Unbelievable. All these years, and you still can’t let it go. You could have everything you want back, but you’d rather throw it all away just to beat him. To prove you were right.


In any case. I enjoyed listening to this book. I just wish it had been better.