Explore the land of math and magic

“The Cartographers” by Peng Shepherd. (Courtesy of William Morrow via Associated Press)

Nell Young has lived with maps all her life, first as the only child of prominent cartographers, then as an expert cartographer herself.

Even so, Nell doesn’t realize how magical maps can be until her estranged father dies suddenly in his office at the New York Public Library and she finds a document that offers a surprising path to a world strange and secret.

The captivating story mapped out in “The Cartographers” is the latest product of Peng Shepherd’s creative imagination, providing readers with many tantalizing twists and surprises along her journey as she explores the intersection between science and art, math and magic.

Shepherd knows a little about the maps from her globetrotting life.

Born and raised in Phoenix, she has since lived in faraway cosmopolitan cities including Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London and New York.

Like his earlier dystopian tale “The Book of M,” Shepherd’s latest novel is at times dark, depicting mystical events that science cannot explain.

“The Cartographers” constantly amazes readers as Shepherd takes us back in time when Nell’s parents are among a group of graduate students brought together by their goal of creating the ultimate map of the world.

Their “Dreamers’ Atlas” was to even include maps from “The Chronicles of Narnia”, a series of fantasy novels by British author CS Lewis.

The college friends were all there when Nell was very young and her mother died in a fire. Later, they learn how Nell’s legendary father, Dr. Daniel Young, suddenly and cruelly ended his promising mapping career shortly after an argument over a foldable highway map at the state gas station of New York dating back to 1930.

Over time, deep secrets held within families and groups of old friends are revealed, lies hidden inside the truth are laid bare, and imaginary places become real as Nell uncovers the ghost colonies that cartographers have used to catch rivals violating their copyrights.

Ultimately, Nell learns that what’s written on paper doesn’t always reflect reality, and that the important purpose of a map is to bring people together.

Comments are closed.