Pros: Magic by map could have been interesting
Cons: Interesting background nearly irrelevant; various and sundry plot holes
Rating: 1.5 out of 5
In The Mapkeeper and the Rise of the Wardens, by Katie Cash, Lucy Barnes is a high school girl destined for greatness. A magical map that leads to another world has chosen her for its keeper. She will be expected to shuttle back and forth between her semi-apocalyptic world and a fantasy realm called Praxis in order to aid the people of this other world.
In the beginning we see that Lucy and her family (two brothers and father) live in a (country?) called the Commune, where everyone’s afraid of being overheard making even the smallest of complaint. So what happens when the government realize she’s the next mapkeeper? The big muckety-muck himself makes an announcement at her school about hiring her for his staff, takes her away by helicopter, talks to her, and then returns her with the map in her possession. A powerful government guy should have had Lucy brought to him, not the other way around. Otherwise he might as well shout to the skies that she’s actually more important than he is. And there was no reason for the helicopter: I’m sure he could have found a room that suited his purposes at the school. Given that he wants to do research on the map and how it works, it’s unfathomable why he immediately sent Lucy back to her family. The map also drops us straight into the realm of magic, while until then we’ve dealt with an entirely non-magical semi-apocalyptic setting. The switch is jarring. Since that ‘original’ world doesn’t come back up much after Lucy and her brothers go to Praxis, I’m unclear on why we needed so strong an introduction to a government that ceases to matter after a short time.
Unfortunately there are a lot of plot holes small and large here; it’s like a pair of jeans from the 80s. People keep avoiding telling Lucy things for no good reason. They need her help, so it makes no sense to hobble her power and her ability to use it. Idiomatic English also drops into otherwise formal speech at very odd moments. At one point Lucy decides to escape her guards by going down a trash chute in a castle. She had no way of knowing whether there was a long drop at the end, or any kind of escape after that, or even if the chute would fit her all the way down. Also, the book simply doesn’t explain how she then managed to get back into her room without her guards figuring out that she sneaked out. To make matters sillier, it apparently takes just a day or so to train people to be more than competent fighting with swords and bows, and riding horses.
Praxis is full of fantasy stereotypes. For example there’s the savage centaurs, with one calm scholar among them. The elves and so forth have little new to bring to the table. The main characters don’t seem very bright, either: they take the magical map out in the tavern even after noticing and pointing out to each other the obviously dangerous people watching them. When Lucy and her brothers go to Praxis, they barely even stop to consider what’s going to happen to their father with all three of them gone, despite the fact that the family is very close. When Lucy accidentally goes back to her own world, not only does she not think to worry about her brothers, who didn’t come back, but it all ended up pretty much being a blatant prod to move the Praxis plots along and bring her back in at a certain point. (Not that I remember anyone saying that time moves differently in the two places, but apparently it does.)
The map “glows, gets warm, and turns colorful when I rub it sometimes.”
I hope you’re laughing as hard as I did!
SPOILERS: There are some other plot holes I want to point out, but they would spoil some details from further along in the book, so I’m noting this as a spoiler paragraph. First: Lucy has a map in her hand and it enables her to do magic. Given that it is a map, why did she not immediately think of travel from one place on the map to another as a ridiculously obvious thing to try? Also, while the map enabled her to do things that did make sense for a sort of map magic, it also sprouted other seemingly random powers like shielding her. After she realizes that it can show her the locations of people she wants to find, she then seemingly forgets this detail when it would have been useful. Next, it seems that somehow one of the characters in this world has had extensive contact with Quincy, the bad government guy from Lucy’s world. Which doesn’t jibe at all with the idea that only the mapkeeper can bridge the two realities. I also don’t understand why on earth Lucy’s younger brother Luke gets himself involved in the experiments of a character he barely knows, on a subject he knows nothing about. It’s just a convenient way to have someone spill the beans of the plot. Finally, the bad guys plan on cloning Lucy and then killing her so they have control of the mapkeeper. Somehow they forgot that they tried this plan once before and it failed miserably. Oh wait, I forgot: after learning that she can call the map to her hand, Lucy then totally fails to try this when someone again takes it from her. Whoops, another: when Lucy gets pulled into battle, she goes for the bow and arrow rather than her map magic. Even though she only had one day of training, and she’s shooting into a melee that includes her friends and allies. END SPOILERS
Mostly the spoilers boil down to this one trend: the characters act in ways that drag the plot in the directions the author would like the story to go in. However, the author does not stop to consider whether these actions make sense for the characters or their surroundings.