BookPage Children's Top Pick, July 2014
S.E. Grove’s debut novel is set in 1890s Boston, a place that anyone who has read history or historical fiction set in that era will recognize—or will they? This world shares geography with our own, but thanks to the Great Disruption, which happened almost a century earlier, the Earth’s regions became unmoored from time. Although New Occident (where Boston is located) lies firmly in the 19th century, other countries are in the Dark Ages, prehistory or even the future.
This fluidity of time means that cartologers, like Sophia’s uncle Shadrack, must make maps that depict not only place but also time. Like Sophia’s long-absent parents, Shadrack is an explorer. Just when he is beginning to show Sophia the mysteries of maps and mapmaking, he is kidnapped, leaving Sophia with a cryptic message—and an even more mysterious glass map. Now, Sophia and her new friend, Theo, must travel south to the Baldlands, where they find themselves threatened by shifting time boundaries and constantly pursued by others who want the map.
The Glass Sentence is the first book in the Mapmakers Trilogy, and it’s a great start. The narrative, which alternates between Sophia’s and Shadrack’s perspectives, is action-packed; the world that Grove has created is rich and interesting; and the characters are complex and endearing. It’s hard to say which part is more compelling—Sophia’s world travels or her internal journey, as she figures out who she can trust and how to trust herself.