The Map of All Things is the second book in the three-part Terra Incognita series by Kevin J. Anderson. NOTE: This review may contain spoilers from Edge of the World; read at your own risk.
As before, so again
Without rehashing the content of my first review on the subject, the majority of my comments as to the believability, sensibility and logic of the narrative apply here just as they did to Edge of the World, though having settled into an understanding of what to expect, I found it far less jarring and much easier to simply read through and carry on to appreciate the development of the plot within its context.
To boldly go
This section of the story focuses much more on the voyages of discovery set up towards the end of the first book. Members of both sides of the Uraban/Tierran conflict have sent out ships of exploration, hoping to find the mythical land of Terravitae from which the Gods Aiden and Urec ventured forth at the urging of their Father, the creator God Ondun. They each hope that finding Terravitae will prove their own version of the faith to be correct, and that the third son of God, Holy Joron, will side with them against the other, making the motives for the ventures morally suspect. In spite of the questionable motives, the leaders of both expeditions are good men with noble intentions, so you never find yourself at a point where you wish either side ill.
Instead, you cheer for a pair of epic voyages into the great unknown, as the crews quite literally point away from shore and sail away with no concept whatsoever of what they might find, going on faith in the success of their mission.
The supernatural revealed
Another facet of this story that developed far more in this installment than in the first is the presence of the supernatural and mythical. We see some inklings in Edge of the World that the religious beliefs of these people are based in some kind of legitimate objective fact. We see what we would unmistakably call magic, if not miracles, and while nobody seems to be hearing or answering prayers, various occurrences suggest that there is truth to the idea that Gods walk the Earth. We see massive sea serpents, including the mythical Leviathan, a beast so hideous and powerful that Ondun refused to create it a mate lest together they overwhelm the entire sea.
By The Map of All Things, there is absolute proof that these are not all things that could be explained by our real-world science or the development of the natural world. This creates a much greater sense of depth and character to the world, causing the reader to think back over all previous events of the series in a new light. No longer can we assume the conflict overriding the entire series is simply the same ignorant religious warring we’ve seen so much in our own history. Once our objective observer view is shown something unmistakably miraculous or magical, our entire perspective shifts and we begin wondering if perhaps one side or the other actually is correct after all, instead of the typical ‘Oh look, religious zealots are causing problems again’ malaise we fight against in the real world.
Why should you read this book?
It still feels strange to be coming across so critically of a series that I’m actually thoroughly enjoying, but I suppose the fact that I do find the series so interesting and engaging is why I’m latching onto any little thing that pulls me away from that.
The characters are developed much more deeply in this installment, since we’ve really already set the stage for the major players and explored their pasts. The story is more interesting, and concentrates less on the pointless travesty of a war going on, focusing on the exploration and the world to a much greater degree. It’s a ripping great yarn for anybody who enjoys a good adventure tale with plenty of danger and derring-do.