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Friday, January 23, 2009

“The Map of Moments” by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Mind the Gap

ABOUT THE MAP OF MOMENTS: Barely six months after leaving New Orleans, history professor Max Corbett is returning to a place he hardly recognizes. The girl he’d loved—and lost—is dead, and the once-enchanted city has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Max has not thought much beyond Gabrielle’s funeral—until a strange old man offers him a map, and an insane proposition:

Forget all the stories about magic you think you know . . .

It looks like an ordinary tourist map, but the old man claims that it is marked with a trail of magical moments from New Orleans’ history that just might open a door to the past. But it is a journey fraught with peril as Max begins to uncover dark secrets about both his dead love and the city he never really knew. How is Gabrielle linked to an evil group from the city’s past? And can Max evade them long enough to turn back the clock and give Gabrielle one last chance at life?

CLASSIFICATION: Like “Mind the Gap”, “The Map of Moments” is a contemporary mystery/thriller imbued with supernatural elements that takes place in a recognizable urban setting—in this case, post-Katrina New Orleans (2005). Unlike its predecessor, “The Map of Moments” is a darker, more somber affair, which is balanced by uplifting rays of hope…

FORMAT/INFO: Page count is 368 pages divided over seventeen chapters. Narration is in the third-person exclusively via the protagonist Max Corbett. “The Map of Moments” is the second Novel of the Hidden Cities after “Mind the Gap”, but is unrelated, and like that book, is self-contained. January 27, 2009 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of “The Map of Moments” via
Bantam Spectra. Cover art provided by Stephan Martiniere.

ANALYSIS:Mind the Gap”, the first collaboration between award-winning and bestselling authors Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, was a solid offering, marred by a slow start and conventional plotting, but ended on a very strong note. Their second collaboration follows a somewhat similar path—slow beginning, powerful ending—but with some key differences.

Firstly, the setting for “The Map of Moments” is much more interesting than it was in “Mind the Gap”. No offense against the city, but I’ve read so many books set in London that every time I go back there, it’s like déjà vu. On the flipside, I’ve only read one short story set in post-Katrina New Orleans, so reading a novel in that milieu was a fresh experience. Of course, it also helps that the authors were able to render the environment with such vividness. Not just the devastation, the horrors and the sorrow, but also little moments—a helpful stranger, an optimistic waitress—that expresses hope for the city, that New Orleans will rebuild, that “we’re still here, and we’ll survive”…

Secondly, “The Map of Moments” features a more inventive plot than its predecessor, revolving around a map that allows the protagonist to visit magical moments throughout New Orleans’ history starting with The First Moment way back in July 15, 1699. By visiting these moments, Max will supposedly gather magic to himself, and once he’s acquired enough magic, he’ll be able to journey back in time and save Gabrielle—the woman that Max loved—from her death during Hurricane Katrina. What really makes this story so fascinating however, is not the concept itself, but the questions that Max continuously uncovers with every new Moment—Why was Gabrielle estranged from her family? Who is Coco? What is the Tordu and why does the very mention of that word inspire such great fear? How is Gabrielle connected with all of this? Who or what is Seddicus? Et cetera—questions that are suspense-building and gut-wrenching.

Thirdly, I found the character of Max Corbett more compelling than “Mind the Gap’s” protagonist Jazz Towne. For one, it’s because he’s just a regular guy, someone without powers or a preordained destiny that readers can connect and sympathize with on a common level. After all, if you had the chance to save the life of someone you loved, wouldn’t you want to try, regardless of how impossible the methods may seem? Additionally, I liked Max more because he had substance and felt like a real person, an issue which I’ve had with the authors’ characterization in the past. In fact, not only does Max possess substance, but he also evolves over the course of the novel—both naturally and realistically—so the Max found at the end of “The Map of Moments” is a completely different person.

As to the rest, the writing of Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon is proficient as usual with skillful prose, believable dialogue and well-executed pacing and plotting. My only real complaint is the ending, which I thought was a bit anticlimactic—and perhaps not the ending I was hoping for—but I’m glad the authors stuck to their guns. On a personal note, as good as the Novels of the Hidden Cities are, I still prefer the authors’ own works like Christopher Golden’s Veil Trilogy and Tim Lebbon’s Noreela stories.

CONCLUSION: Compared to “Mind the Gap”, “The Map of Moments” is better written, better executed, creatively superior, and just overall a more gripping and satisfying reading experience than its predecessor. A haunting, yet inspirational novel that could resonate very strongly with readers, “The Map of Moments” is undeniable proof that Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon make a great team together…


A prolific and bestselling writer of horror, fantasy, and suspense for adults, teens, and young readers, Christopher Golden’s bibliography includes The Veil Trilogy, Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Hellboy tie-in books, Ghosts of Albion (w/
Amber Benson), “Poison Ink” (Reviewed HERE) and “Baltimore, or The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire”, co-authored with Mike Mignola, which they are currently scripting as a feature film for New Regency. Christopher has also collaborated with Thomas E. Sniegoski on The Menagerie series, the OutCast novels, and the comic book miniseries Talent and The Sisterhood—the latter three have all been acquired for film adaptation.

Tim Lebbon is a British writer of horror and dark fantasy. He has won three British Fantasy Awards, a Bram Stoker Award, a Shocker and a Tombstone Award. Tim’s bibliography includes the “Dusk/Dawn” duology, the Noreela novel “Fallen”, “Beserk”, “The Everlasting”, “Hellboy: Unnatural Selection” and the New York Times bestselling movie novelization of
30 Days of Night. He is also the author of the novella “White”, soon to be a major motion picture. Upcoming releases include the new Noreela novel, “The Island” (May 19, 2009) from Bantam Spectra,

Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon are also co-authoring The Secret Journeys of Jack London YA novels


Little Willow said...

Cannot WAIT for this release! :)

SparklingBlue said...

Although I like fantasy in other worlds better, this sounds like a "fantasy-in-our-world" story I can give a chance to.

Robert said...

It's almost here Little Willow :)

If you get a chance to check it out SparklingBlue, I would recommend it :) Although be sure to check out the author's other works as well...

SparklingBlue said...

I've read Lebbon's Dawn before, and would like to read Dusk too (if only to understand Dawn better)

Robert said...

Well Dusk/Dawn is basically one story split in two, so I would definitely read Dawn if you can. And if you end up enjoying the duology, then be sure to check out Tim's other Noreela stories :)

The Mad Hatter said...

I've visited New Orleans quite a bit and the authors nailed the locale. The next book in the series will be placed in Venice. Feel free to check out my take of TMOM.

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