First, what I liked. The story starts off with a short chapter that explains almost everything you need to know about the world the Penn has created. There are humans with magical powers that can control various elements, some of which are tied to the use of maps, though not all. The main character is Sienna, who is the descendant of the first character we meet, an elderly man named Michael, who is her grandfather.
Michael is a Map Walker and controls and protects the border between the Earth-siders and the Shadow Cartographers. Between the two lands is a third realm known as the Borderlands. When he is challenged by one of the Shadow Cartographers in a battle of magic, Michael fails. He is old and his magic is weak. When he dies he leaves everything he owns, including a map shop, to his granddaughter Sienna. (This all happens in the first chapter, so I don’t think I’m breaking the rule on spoilers)
Up until Chapter Three, I was totally entranced with the novel and was looking forward to this being a fast read. And, though I did complete it in just about a week, I had set it aside for at least two or three days without reading at all as I toyed with whether I wanted to finish it or not. I just found too many incidents of bad writing.
Let me give a few examples. Here’s how Chapter 16 starts off. “Finn looked back into the forest. It was almost dark. He gestured ahead.” Now, if this doesn’t read completely matter-of-fact, vanilla and generic, then maybe I should read something else. And there were dozens upon dozens of examples just like this one.
In another part, the author is describing a creature she refers to as ‘Giant Apes’, and says that their ‘meaty hands were the size of giant baseball mitts’. What does that even mean? Now I need to do research on my own to find out exactly how big giant baseball mitts are so I have something to reference. Also, nearly every other time the author refers to the Giant Apes hands, the word ‘meaty’ is used to describe them. At least 10-12 times if memory serves, though I’d have to go back and count to be sure. Trust that it was a lot and we’ll leave it at that.
Also, I’ve read quite a bit of fantasy, and I know there are moments in these books that the reader needs to suspend disbelief and just go with the story, but I found myself rolling my eyes in disbelief more times than I can count. There was too much that just didn’t feel right, like there was no way it could happen as the author wrote it.
For example, in one section, in the space of about 10 short paragraphs, one of the characters goes from losing someone they care about, to becoming violently angry and almost barbaric, to suddenly having romantic (or at least passionate) thoughts about another character. And based on the timeline of that section, those 10 paragraphs covered maybe 3-5 minutes of time.
I could go on and on about the things that I didn’t like in this book, but I think I’ve said enough. Bottom line, I absolutely loved the creativity of the idea, but the execution in the telling of the story was far from enjoyable to read.
I can only give this book 2 stars.