Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: The Map Makers (book 1)

To our blog readers,
I know it is been a very long time since we last posted, and I am so sorry for this. We are sadly more busy than we'd like with school, jobs, writing, and other things. Part of the reason we do not post often is because we do not have much time to read/watch things to post on. I do not say this to give us an excuse not to post, I simply present it as a possible reason as to why we may not post as often as we like. We are, however, working on remedying this. In the meantime, please accept our apologies for not posting often enough and know we are doing what we can to increase the number of posts.
A blessed and very merry Christmas to all our blog readers.

Title: The Map Makers
Author: Matthew Krengel
Genre: fantasy, adventure
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: children's fiction
Age Group: 10+

Summary: Jane is a relatively normal girl by modern standards. She has an iPhone, her parents are divorced, and she takes the train to her grandparents' every summer. Usually, she does that with her sister. Now that her sister's gone missing, however, it's just her.
And a strange little old man. And a creepy tall man dressed in a black robe type thing. And a cute boy named Jacob.
After witnessing a bizarre fight and disappearance, Jane and Jacob are thrust into a world of magic which needs their help. Fairies are being captured. Slaves are being held. Jane's sister might be a captive. Magic is creating huge destructive waves on Lake Superior back in their world. The Divide between the two worlds is in danger, and Jane and Jacob might be the only ones who can help.

Word of Warning
This is not a problem, but you might want to be aware this book takes a few chapters to really get moving. It also has a prologue and epilogue which move slowly and are vague and confusing (they make more sense when you've read half the book). Other than that, it's a quick and enjoyable read with a very real feeling to the life portrayed.

This book was very clean. Jacob and Jane are 16 (we know this because they drive) but they have clean language and, aside from running off on a fantasy adventure without telling their parents (a sort of necessary ingredient in all children's fantasy books), are pretty good kids. There is some fantasy violence, but none of it is graphic. Here is a short list I wrote while reading the book of things you might want to be aware of:
  • Slave ships are mentioned, and there is a suggestion that many do not return. Those who do do not come back the same.
  • Mention of bloody raids on villages
  • Jane's mother, being divorced, has a boyfriend.
  • Jane does not have much respect for her mother. This can be seen more in her wording and annoyance in narration, Jane ignoring her mother to listen to music, and Jane lying to her mother so she can stay with her grandparents, but not in their dialogue. I can't tell if this is because the author wants her to sound like a teenager, or if he really is going for disrespect.
  • There is a mention of the movie Twilight. The only detail we get is that Bella is accusing Edward of being a vampire. We are given no indication as to what that means or what the story is about.
  • Jane's sister disappeared and the police have given up searching.
  • Jane's grandfather calls a reporter a filthy animal. This is the best (and strongest) insult in the book.
  • Jane and Jane take the train alone. This may not be a problem since they are 16 and can drive alone.
  • Jacob makes a half-hearted threat to throw a man who is pestering him off a train.
  • A man is beaten and falls unconscious.
  • A father forgets his son's visit "nonviolently" according to the son. The son is sent back home to his mother and she is angry and yells at the father. The son also seems a bit upset about all of this.
  • A man threatens kids with a knife/sword/dagger.
  • A huge wave hits houses, stores, cars, and leaves behind it destruction. We later find out that seven people died.
  • Kids let a stranger into their car and drive him around.
  • Two kisses. One is described as quick and gentle. The other is a kiss "once long and hard" but no other description.
  • Jane hits a man over the head with a baseball bat and he turns to dust.
  • Jane and Jacob hang out in Jane's bedroom with the door closed to keep away from her grandparents. Nothing happens.
  • Jacob's pants fall down to just above his knees when his belt is cut off so he can fit into a little fairy cave. He pulls them back up, Jane isn't there, and no further mention is made (except that he gets a new belt when he gets home).
  • Jacob's mother doesn't worry about her son until he's been gone for a few days, according to him.
  • Goblins are shot and killed. An old man gets a dagger to his shoulder and dies (it's a good death).
  • A man threatens Jane, saying he is going to "cut you up girl" and waves his daggers at her. This is about as graphically violent as it gets.
The list might seem long, but that's because there was so little in the book I was able to take notes on everything I saw. Often with books that have more problems, I select the ones people have more objection to and share those.

My Thoughts
It was a fun read, especially for a Minnesotan. Seeing the grandfather say "oh yah" (which does happen!) and the kids refer to pop, as, well, pop, was very thrilling for me. Plus, Jane lives in the Cities and can see Interstate 94 from her window. Then they went to Duluth and we were given even more detail on Minnesota. It's not very often a Minnesotan gets to read a book set in her own state that's actually well done. Plus, the characters are decent (for the most part), have clean language, and Jacob is a gentleman (more or less. I mean, he's 16, so he's got some room to improve).
Something I did notice is that the book moved slowly at times and at other times it sounded like a grown man trying to sound like a 16 year old kid. Which, realistically, is what it was.
Overall, it was a great little adventure, fast read, and a pleasant little gem to have on a bookshelf and would like to read the other two some day. I confess I have not come across a fantasy book of this quality that is clean enough that I willingly hand it to my younger brothers without a second thought, but that is what this book is. And for that, I am so very grateful.