Beijing, China, 1421: It is a momentous time for the Ming Dynasty. Honoring the completion of the Forbidden City, a fleet of unprecedented size sets sail under Admiral Zheng He. Zheng’s mission is to chart the globe, trading for riches and bringing glory to China’s emperor. Among the crew is the talented cartographer and navigator Ma Zhi, whose work will lead to the first true map of the world–but whose accomplishment will vanish when the fleet returns to a very different China than the one it left.
Lisbon, Portugal, 1496: At the height of Portugal’s maritime domination during the Age of Discovery, the legendary explorer Vasco da Gama embarks on a quest to find a sea route to India. On board is navigator Antonio Coehlo, who guards Portugal’s most secret treasure: a map that already shows the way.
New York, present day: Mara Coyne’s new client has left her uneasy. Republican kingmaker Richard Tobias has hired her, he says, because of her skill in recovering stolen art and advocating for the rightful owners, but Mara senses that he is not telling her everything. Tobias reveals that a centuries-old map was stolen from an archaeological dig he is sponsoring in China, and he wants her to get it back. But as Mara begins her investigation, she uncovers the shocking truth: The map is more valuable than anyone has ever imagined, and her client’s motives are more sinister than she suspected.
I read The Chrysalis, Heather Terrell's debut, last year and really enjoyed it. I was thrilled to see another book featuring Mara Coyne, and wasn't disappointed with this globe trotting treasure hunt. The book shifts between China in 1421, Portugal in 1496, and the present. The historical parts of the story are a wonderful backdrop for the fast paced action taking place in the present.
Terrell does a wonderful job of changing her tone and wording with each of the historical sections and the present. This change in tone really gives you an immediate sense of which story line you are following at that moment. I didn't feel as much of a connection with the story set in Portugal, but that may have been just because I wasn't as familiar with that period in history. The story set in China was fascinating though. For me, a good historical novel should make you want to learn more about the time period it is set in, and The Map Thief didn't disappoint.
Mara Coyne is a smart heroine who is willing to take risks when necessary, but also maintains her integrity while dealing with some unscrupulous characters. I hope to be able to follow Mara Coyne on more of her treasure hunts, and will be on the lookout for Heather Terrell's next book. I would highly recommend this book to those readers who enjoyed Da Vinci Code. 4 stars