Reviews: The Map to Everywhere

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and  John Parke Davis (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Expected Publication November 2014)

Multiverse fantasy isn’t unheard of in middle grade fiction (though Diana Wynne Jones was one of the first I read who wrote such things) but it’s never really caught on the way certain types of fantasy have.  I suspect this may be due to the fact that the readers most likely to love these kinds of stories have not only a love of world building, but of being introduced to many worlds and dimensions explored in a single narrative.  Often, multiverse characters find themselves journeying through many worlds to find their ultimate goal. So what is a multiverse?  It’s when the author in question has decided that there isn’t just one world, or one universe out there–but many.  Distances don’t define them very well: sometimes one of those universes could be behind a cabinet door . . .or through a wardrobe.  In these stories “saving the world” isn’t quite the thing, because there are lots of worlds, often oodles of worlds.  Some of those worlds are just a little different from “real” world we know  others may vary wildly with bizarre creatures, strangely defined societies and completely different rules of physics.

The Map to Everywhere is an ambitious new story set in a multiverse.  Connecting all these worlds and universes together is a river of pure magic, called the Pirate Stream.  Few can navigate the waters of the pirate stream safely, and anything that touches those magical “waters” might explode . . . or turn into a chicken . . . or worse.   Fin is a master thief of Khaznot Quay whom everyone forgets after they’ve seen him.  It makes him an excellent thief, but leaves him friendless and homeless.  What he wants is to find his mother–the woman who left him all those years ago.  A mysterious letter hints that he might find the answers he seeks with a special key and a legendary map.  Marrill is a girl from our own world who finds a sailing ship called The Enterprising Kraken in what should have been a parking lot.  Through a series of events, she winds up stowing away on board a boat with the strangest cast of characters . . . and suddenly adrift on the Pirate Stream without an easy way back home.  The Map is her best chance at finding home again.  But others are  after the Map, and in the wrong hands the map could mean the destruction of all the worlds on the Pirate Stream.

The authors have created a stellar middle-grade fantasy that delivers adventure and fantasy in equal measure.  Readers who enjoy romping across worlds on a quest fantasy, will surely dive in with enthusiasm.  We have likable young protagonists:  Fin is slightly unusual in his gifts, but his loneliness and struggles to simply be noticed are things that most children feel at some time.  Marrill’s more familiar origins, plus her anxiety about her mother’s illness  give her a grounding in the real that doesn’t keep her from embracing the magical journey she’s been swept into.  The characters are not as fully fleshed out as they might be, but I think this has more to do with the type of story being told.  The authors clearly are focusing on the landscape and quest rather than character relationships and transformation as the heart of the story.  That’s not to say there’s no character work or relationships.  Most significantly, it turns out Marrill is the only one who can remember Fin–and she becomes his first friend.  That friendship puts Fin in a bit of bind.  All his life he’s had fairly little regret about taking things and leaving people behind since they won’t remember him.  But Marrill is different, and suddenly it’s important how she thinks of him.

The plot spins out by turns dramatic and dark, with startling touches of humor and bizarre world-building.  It makes a surprisingly satisfying mix.  The whole quest starts with a dark prophecy by a madman called the Oracle.  This creepy guy weeps black tears and causes everyone around him to start weeping simply by being in their proximity.  It’s an incredibly creepy and vivid visual.  I’m always impressed when someone can do something new with the standard villain tropes and still manage to make someone suitably frightening.  Fin barely escapes the clutches of the Oracle, in Khaznot Quay and when he joins the crew of The Enterprising Kraken. And the Oracle isn’t done with them yet, as the ship searches for pieces of the Map, the Oracle is only a little behind in the pursuit–ever focused on his dark goal.  Then there’s that humor.  Magic acts in strange ways, creating strange elements, like the wandering Promenade Deck, a cart full of magical flavors, a cantankerous creature called the Naysayer and probability crabs (which can taste like anything).  It keeps the story lively and interesting with new discoveries.  Which is one of the things a reader like myself loves to encounter with books exploring wild world–things that are different but fascinating to read about.  It makes the whole adventure have an element of fun to it rather than a more stolid and serious epic fantasy drama.

Those who like a more concisely told story may find that the quest-style adventure of this book less engaging, particularly if they prefer single world stories with more concise plot arcs.  The book does take some time for a reader to get into, mostly because it doesn’t try to explain everything that’s going on up front, so reader have to go along with the narrative and pick up information as the story progresses.  That said, once I got about ten pages in, the rest of the story progressed at a fair clip and I eagerly read all the way to the end without wanting to put it down.   It won’t appeal to every reader, but should have an ample share of fans, particularly those hungry for more fantasy. This reminded me most strongly of The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove, but while that debut title really read more teen than middle-grade,  The Map to Everywhere is well suited for the 9-12 audience.

Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: Expected Publication November 2014

ISBN13:    9780316240772

Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Comments welcome! 

 

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on September 5, 2014, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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