A Letter from Peng Shepherd

A Letter from Peng Shepherd

Dear Goldsboro reader,

I’m thrilled to be introducing my second novel, The Cartographers, to you.

Like many of us, I’ve been fascinated with maps for as long as I can remember. It seems like no one can resist glancing at one as they pass by, whatever the circumstance. I think we’re all hoping to discover something new within their subtle colors and curving lines—a name we hadn’t noticed before, an invitation, an adventure—even for the most familiar of places. It turns out, we might be on to something. There’s actually a longstanding secret practice among cartographers of hiding intentional errors on their maps. These intentional errors are called phantom settlements, and mapmakers make them to protect their work. But every once in a while, a phantom settlement doesn’t stay hidden. Sometimes, it becomes real.

The Cartographers is based on a true story about one such phantom settlement. It follows Nell Young, a budding scholar, who discovers after the death of her estranged father, the legendary cartographer Dr. Young, that a seemingly worthless map in his belongings actually holds an incredible, deadly mystery—and she sets out to uncover both what that map, and her late father, have been hiding for decades.

In a way, this book is also my love letter to this old craft. These days, electronic maps have become nearly ubiquitous. Ask yourself, when was the last time you used a paper map? I, too, am guilty of switching over. It’s hard to resist the convenience and safety of GPS when driving, or when you’re late to a meeting, or are simply somewhere unfamiliar. But as much as I value the accuracy of electronic maps and appreciate how much the world has benefitted from them, I still miss that sense of discovery and wonder that the traditional versions used to give me. With this novel, I wanted to remind myself and readers of that feeling of possibility, mystery, and maybe even of a touch of magic—if only you look closely enough.

The Cartographers is a story about family secrets, and the delicate, intimate relationship between art and science, and history and magic. You’ll like it if you also feel at home in cluttered libraries and dusty archives, or love poring over old atlases to discover unfamiliar places as much as I do.

Simply put, this book is for anyone who’s ever opened up a map and gotten lost in it.

To close, I’d like to mention that in addition to my love of maps, I was also inspired by many incredible novels while writing The Cartographers, and would love to share them with you. If you enjoy my book, I think you’d also like The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow, The Binding by Bridget Collins, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab, and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

As I’m sure they do for you, books hold a special place in my heart. I sincerely hope you enjoy reading The Cartographers as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Warmest regards,


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