The Map Thief by Heather Terrell
The Map Thief is an art / archaeology adventure story in the vein of The DaVinci Code, but with less violence and overt big-screen-ready hamminess. There's the obligatory Templars connection, and a whip-smart protagonist sent on a globetrotting search for a missing artifact. Beyond that, however, DaVinci similarities fade, and The Map Thief stands quite well on its own two feet.
As the main character, recovery expert Mara Coyne is believable and likable. Even after she finds a similarly likable love interest, she remains a strong character, never relying on a man to sweep in and save the day, which I appreciated. The story centers around Mara's search for an ancient map that has the potential to rewrite history.
The story is told in three interwoven plotlines -- Mara's modern-day search, the map's 1421 creation at the hands of a Chinese cartographer, and the use of the map by Portuguese navigators in 1496. This style of alternating storylines is one of my favorite devices in a history-heavy novel, and Terrell handles the various threads beautifully. Her handling of it reminded me a lot of both The Historian and The Thirteenth Tale, two of my favorite books from the last several years.
The Map Thief is a sequel to The Chrysalis, which I have not read, but the references to the events of that novel were only mentioned in passing and lacking the knowledge of the first book didn't seem to be a problem. I thought the book was a little slow to start, but once Mara sets out to seek the map, things picked up right away. I found it to be a quick and enjoyable read, and the coworker I loaned it to after I finished had the same experience.
In the interest of keeping my bookshelves manageable, I'm going to pass this book on to someone else. If you'd like a chance to win my copy, leave a comment on this entry and tell me your favorite historical figure / group / theme / era / whatever to read about. Personally, I'm a sucker for a book that involves old-timey sailors. You have until midnight on Wednesday, February 25th to enter. Good luck!
Winner! Congratulations to Riva :)
I'll be posting a new giveaway on Monday as part of the Bookroom Reviews Book Giveaway Carnival, so come back soon!