7 thoughts on ““The Cartographer’s Price” by Suzanne J. Willis”

  1. Well, not bad, but…

    Maybe lacking a certain precision in language. "Harmonies born of opal tears and mandalas of unearthly voices gave birth to the compositions that lived beneath her skin." That’s more extravagant than informative. And shouldn’t the "unchartered" in the last paragraph be "uncharted"?

    More to the point, I’m not sure what I think of the central concept of the Balladliner extracting songs from her own flesh. Fantasy writers do like prices paid in blood, don’t they, and equating art with horrible sacrifice?

    I must say this story was very satisfying to read — I think that’s because the author was adept at conveying the cartographer’s shifting emotions. Sometimes you just want a story that takes you far away emotionally, and it doesn’t have to make a whole lot of sense.

  2. Engaging and entertaining.

    What I really loved best, though it was a minor point, was "Sir, I deal exclusively in maps. They hust might not be the type that you are accustomed to." That’ll stay with me.

    What I think would have made the story really work for me is just a little fleshing out of the characters and the map. Just a few defining moments or characteristics for the cartographer, Nico, and the Commander. And SOME sense of what the map is, where it leads, why it’s important. As is, I didn’t feel much investment – the map’s importance was constantly told, never shown, and the characters felt very thin.

  3. I liked the way the art of cartography was portrayed in this story. These are not maps that lay down the latitude and longitude of pieces of land. Instead, they portray people’s desires, memories, imaginings, intentions, perceptions of the land and of where they want to go. That is, indeed, a tricky matter.

  4. A story that the protagonist already knows is always a risky proposition. It makes it hard to feel anything is at stake, and it means the POV needs to keep secrets from the reader.

    Willis offsets this in some ways – offering the tension of the customer getting the story wrong, and dying; the hope that the story will help the cartographer find Nico.

    These are partially successful. We don’t really know about Nico or how the story might help until the very end, so that’s a weak hook. And fairly early, any pretense that of tension that the stranger might get it wrong pretty much fades away.

    So, decently handled, but still problematic. Could’ve stood a little improvement. On general, withholding information until the very end is a tough sell for me – it’s very very easy to wind up so that you’re waiting for the story to finish just in order to explain why it’s meant to be interesting to begin with.

    1. I thought withholding the fact that the teller was Nico was a pretty weak gimmick myself. Not nice of her to not reveal herself from the beginning. Hiding from the cartographer makes no sense. However, the eventual revelation was so well written that I can almost overlook that…

  5. Yes, the characters were sketchy. They were portrayed in terms of their relationships to one another rather than personal traits. But I kind of feel like that is a valid kind of writing — analogous to a map of a route rather than a landscape.

Leave a Reply