Map of Shadows

Map of Shadows

A map of skin etched in blood.A world under threat from the Borderlands.A young woman who must risk the shadows to save her family.When her Grandfather is murdered under mysterious circumstances, Sienna Farren inherits his map shop in the ancient city of Bath, England. Once there, she discovers that her family is bound up with the Ministry of Maps, a mysterious agency who...

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Title:Map of Shadows
Author:J.F. Penn
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Map of Shadows Reviews

  • Michaelbrent Collings

    Here is the litmus test for a great story: when you are in bed at night, reading, and your spouse elbows you in the side and says, "Shut UP."

    "What?" you answer, confused about what's happening, half of you still trapped in the story you've fallen into.

    "You were SHOUTING," she says. Then she rolls over, laughing because she knows what this means: that SHE has found a new story, too, because when I'm done with it, it's her turn.

    ***

    The above is rare for me. As a writer myself, I have a marked tende

    Here is the litmus test for a great story: when you are in bed at night, reading, and your spouse elbows you in the side and says, "Shut UP."

    "What?" you answer, confused about what's happening, half of you still trapped in the story you've fallen into.

    "You were SHOUTING," she says. Then she rolls over, laughing because she knows what this means: that SHE has found a new story, too, because when I'm done with it, it's her turn.

    ***

    The above is rare for me. As a writer myself, I have a marked tendency to pick a story apart, to dissect each sentence after reading it and to ruthlessly VIVISECT the plot AS I read it. I'm like a mad scientist, who in churning out his own little monsters has ceased to view the other creatures out there as anything other than items of academic interest. Just things to be learned from or things to be despised, depending on how competent those creatures' own "mad scientist" parent are (or are not).

    And then, in a beautiful - and all-too-rare - moment, one of those creatures not only meets your gaze, but stares you down and then SPEAKS to you. You are reminded that these creatures, these little monsters that have sprung forth of others' minds, can sometimes rise to be more than things to be examined. They can be extraordinary, full of wonder and light and genuine magic.

    Map of Shadows, the first book of the Mapwalkers series, is a story like this. I went into it with the concern that I ALWAYS have when reading a story by someone I know and respect, because there is nothing worse than telling a friend that their latest is anything other than magnificent. Ms. Penn and I are not the kind of buddies who hang out - or even talk regularly - but she has interviewed me a number of times for her (superlative) writing podcast, The Creative Penn. I count those interviews as among the most fun I have had, and Ms. Penn as one of the best hosts, who brings you not only onto her show, but into her heart.

    Now, I'm not just wandering around aimlessly here. I mention The Creative Penn because in the same way that she opens her heart and mind and her great understanding of the written word to those lucky people in her audience (and those luckier people whom she hosts on her show) so she has opened that heart and mind and understanding to those lucky people who read this book. Map of Shadows, like The Creative Penn and the best books and like Ms. Penn herself, is simply MAGIC.

    Shadow Cartographers. Maps of Shadow. Labyrinths where death makes its home. Places that have not truly disappeared from the world, but which most certainly HAVE become lost... and become darker in the losing. Fiendish monsters torn from dark imaginings and even greater monsters embodied in the men and women who bear sad resemblance to our own darkest selves.

    All this and more is on full display in Map of Shadows, but above all that, this book is about connections.

    It is a story of a woman who finds that this world we enjoy is not the ONLY world, and perhaps not even the most important or more powerful. But as her understanding of the world(s) grows(s), so too does her ability to bring real betterment to that world.

    It is the story of a woman who chooses to reject a life of relative comfort for a life of danger, and does so for nothing more nor less than the tiny chance that she will find a family she thought lost to her.

    It is the story of a woman who has few connections to a world which - as it has for so many of us - has grown cold and distant and even alien; but who then finds those connections in the form of new friends who are willing to echo her sacrifices and then add some of their own. It is the story of hopelessness found in dark places, but then brought back to the light.

    It is the story of... us.

    We each make maps of our lives. Perhaps none do what our heroine accomplishes - drawing places into being simply by "mapping" them, or traveling the length and width of the universe(s) in an instant - but we draw our homes, our places of comfort; our "war zones" wherein we find things ranging from angry bosses to that grocery store clerk who for some strange reason manages to terrify us every time she weighs our grapes (yes, this is about me); and we draw the outer edges of our worlds, knowing that beyond them danger dwells.

    And yet we go. We travel to the boundaries of our lives and comforts and then - as Sienna shows us how to do - we move past those boundaries, and into shadow...

    ... and there discover that we have, somehow, brought our brightness with us.

    Sienna is all of us, and in her we find what every good Mapwalker MUST find: a road to travel; a quest to undertake; a guide or two to help us along the way, and, in the end, our hopes and dreams.

    Thank you, Sienna, for showing an extraordinary path; and thank you, Ms. Penn, for your extraordinary stories and for the joy and light they bring.

    HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

  • Completely Melanie

    I want to start off by saying that I received this book for review, but my opinions are my own and I am not paid for this review. That being said, Oh my gosh!!!! This book was soooooo good!!! Right from the very beginning of this book, it just took off full steam ahead with no slowing down! It's not a very long book, but they managed to pack a lot in just 192 pages! I loved it and would totally read the sequel!

    I have a YouTube channel called Completely Melanie and one of the things I do on this

    I want to start off by saying that I received this book for review, but my opinions are my own and I am not paid for this review. That being said, Oh my gosh!!!! This book was soooooo good!!! Right from the very beginning of this book, it just took off full steam ahead with no slowing down! It's not a very long book, but they managed to pack a lot in just 192 pages! I loved it and would totally read the sequel!

    I have a YouTube channel called Completely Melanie and one of the things I do on this channel is a reading vlog where each day I discuss what I am reading and my reactions to books. I said in my vlog many times while reading this book that I could totally see this playing out as a movie in my head. I think this book would make and awesome movie!

    Sienna Farren's grandfather dies and leaves her his map shop in Bath, England. When she arrives, she is thrown into the world of Mapwalkers and learns that she possesses the magical ability to travel through maps. The Ministry of Maps is an agency that is charged with maintaining the borders between this world and the Borderlands which is the place where things that have been written out of history end up. It isn't a very nice place to be and the people there want into our world. Sienna must help the Ministry of Maps protect the borders at all cost!

  • Toni Osborne

    Book # 1 in the Mapwalkers series

    This new series is a dark fantasy and a pretty weird story, not to mention gory to no end. A map of skin etched in blood and a world under threat…..

    Those of us fans of this author already knows how creative she is and how richly and cleverly written her stories are. Well no exception here. Vividly said Bath comes to life with creepy characters and supernatural happenings. This intriguing story based on maps and cartographers propels us into a fantasy world where

    Book # 1 in the Mapwalkers series

    This new series is a dark fantasy and a pretty weird story, not to mention gory to no end. A map of skin etched in blood and a world under threat…..

    Those of us fans of this author already knows how creative she is and how richly and cleverly written her stories are. Well no exception here. Vividly said Bath comes to life with creepy characters and supernatural happenings. This intriguing story based on maps and cartographers propels us into a fantasy world where a mysterious agency maintains the borders between this word and the Uncharted. Spooky, indeed

    On the surface Bath is a genteel place but Ms. Penn imagination show us that there is a darker side to the city. Beneath the charming streets lies a weird city, a place haunted by mysterious power. Here, local legends play a good part. Sienna Farren is the main character and is aided by colourful secondary players that have magical abilities and terrifying shadows to scare us to death…

    Although this book as many good qualities I honestly cant’ say it drew me in, too weird for my taste but I must say parts reflect our real world where countries are ravaged by war, famine, poverty, terrorism and many other afflictions leaving their people to suffer the consequences…totally abandoned.

    I received this ARC from the author for my thoughts. It may not have been my preferred book but it is definitely not one to pass over…..give it a go.

  • Melleny

    Overall, I think that this story has potential. The author's writing is definitely in the beginning stages but I think that with time they will figure some things out. The wiring will become a whole lot better with both time and practice. The plot was interesting but I felt myself skipping over some se

    Overall, I think that this story has potential. The author's writing is definitely in the beginning stages but I think that with time they will figure some things out. The wiring will become a whole lot better with both time and practice. The plot was interesting but I felt myself skipping over some sections because they were boring or because it was too much of an information dump. Please be aware that this book does contain self-harm. The characters were also felt but with the development of the author's writing, the characters will also get more depth. Thank you so much to

    for providing me with a copy fo this book!

  • Michael Chrobak

    When I received a copy of this book to review, I was really looking forward to it. I hadn’t read anything by this author, and after reading through some of the reviews, I thought this would be a book I could really fall in love with.

    Sadly, I was wrong.

    First of all, let me say, I did love the storyline and the concepts of this fantasy novel. The author definitely has some wicked creative skills. What crushed it for me was the quality of the writing, which almost made me place this in the DNF pile

    When I received a copy of this book to review, I was really looking forward to it. I hadn’t read anything by this author, and after reading through some of the reviews, I thought this would be a book I could really fall in love with.

    Sadly, I was wrong.

    First of all, let me say, I did love the storyline and the concepts of this fantasy novel. The author definitely has some wicked creative skills. What crushed it for me was the quality of the writing, which almost made me place this in the DNF pile. The language was sticky and clunky, the descriptions were vague, and the whole thing came off flat and at times boring to read.

    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.

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