The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis
Little, Brown & Company, November 18, 2014
Grade 3-7, 448 pages (hardback)
So to be perfectly honest it was the cover art that first drew me to request this novel, and after reading the blurb I knew I Had to review this for our library. Its premise of a quest to find a way home by an ordinary girl thrown into an extraordinary world is not especially new, but it is a Very good one. And this story does go about it in a fun way. Instead of Baum’s Dorthy trying to get to the Emerald City, or Nix’s Arthur moving through a steampunk world in search of a Will. We have a ragtag group of misfits sailing the universe on a quest to find pieces of a map that can lead you to anywhere you desire. (For those of you who like Terry Gilliam’s Movie Time Bandits from the 1980’s)
Our main character is Marrill, a modern schoolgirl used to traveling with her parents everywhere and anywhere adventure took them until her Mother’s illness has them living in a house in boring dry Phoenix Arizona. And then there is the orphan Fin, an utterly forgettable (no really you can’t remember him if you take your eyes off him) young boy living in a magical port world Khaznot Quay who’s deepest desire is to be remembered and find his mother. Their paths will collide on a magical river aboard the Pirate Vessel Kraken. Along with a crew of multi limbed rats “Pirates” (say it “Pie-Rats”), a tattooed Captain Coll, and a muddling wizard Ardent who just might be wiser and older than time. Together they will sail the Pirate Stream in search of pieces to the magical Map of Everywhere.
Along the way they encounter a crazy prophet the “Oracle” who makes everyone cry, an Iron Ship, a Land so cold it freezes the words right out of your mouth, and a Compass Rose with a taste for acorns.
I found the beginning a little difficult to follow, since the perspectives were so divergent. Fin is in a magical land reminiscent of a Dungeons and Dragon’s set up. While Merrill is just an ordinary girl in Phoenix Arizona who is terrified of being normal and of her Mother’s illness. Then she is a stowaway on the Kraken (think Hitchhikers Guide but without the towel and boats instead of spaceships). It is not until about chapter eight or so (about 20% into the book) that the two perspectives finally merge into a single narrative and the story takes off. I worry that the confusing beginning might discourage some younger readers and this is such a great story. I don’t mind a bit of mystery, but I like my stories to at least explain who the main characters are before flip flopping me between perspectives.
There is a believable bad guy, a terrific back story, and age appropriate mysteries (who am I, where are we going). The gore level is pretty minimal and nothing terribly scary happens. As a bonus, the story is self contained, and though there is an obvious set up for a sequel it is not a cliffhanger. All I can say is tough out the beginning, it is worth the effort. This book will be on our recommended reading list.