The Crimson Skew: The Mapmaker's Trilogy, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Crimson Skew: The Mapmaker's Trilogy, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Fabulous end to complex trilogy includes antiwar message.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Since the globe becomes a mix of different time periods, readers can think about what a fractured world would look like and what kind of chaos this would create. We also get to ask questions such as: What if the U.S. Civil War never happened? What if the U.S. left the Great Plains states and beyond to the Native Americans? Specific to Book 3, readers can think about the reasons we go to war and the impact it has on the human psyche and the environment.

Positive Messages

Explores the horrible impact of war on humans and the environment. Includes strong messages about friendship, courage, and accepting loss and how memories help with feelings of loss.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sophia's thoughts on her friends sum up their great qualities: "Sophia realized that despite their disparate origins, varied dress, and oft-incompatible sense of humor, they also had a great deal in common. They acted on principle; they were courageous; and they helped fellow travelers." Sophia is shown many paths to life and chooses a harder one because it will be more fulfilling. Sophia, her Uncle Shadrack, and her friends all risk their lives to stop a war.

Violence

A mysterious red fog envelops whole towns and causes violence and hallucinations -- mothers think their own children are enemies and try to kill them, friends turn on friends and shoot them, and the fog is sent ahead of soldiers to turn their enemies against each other. Talk of many deaths, and some important characters shoot each other by accident. Troops are ambushed with arrows, and a main character gets a near fatal wound from an arrow after being dragged by a team of fleeing mules. A soldier is forced to eat dirt. A sword fight ends in slashed ankles. A story of a man's whole family burning to death; he's burned badly trying to save them. A story of a boy forced to fight in a dogfight for his life so his father can bet on him. Talk of an entire block sucked into a sinkhole with no survivors.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Talk of rum drinking and a man's past heavy drinking habit.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Crimson Skew is the last book in the highly imaginative Mapmakers Trilogy. The publisher gives it a go for age 10 and up, but the complexity of the fascinating time-fractured world will make it hard for kids under 12 to follow. The globe exists in many time periods at once, so it helps to know a bit of world history. And the explanations of the way various maps are designed -- especially the ones that use people's memories -- will be fascinating to the right experienced reader, frustrating for others. If kids have stuck with the rest of the series, though, they'll be ready for the finale. Expect about the same level of violence as in Book 2. Instead of disease ravaging populations, a mysterious red fog envelops whole towns and causes hallucinations. Mothers think their own children are enemies and try to kill them, friends turn on friends and shoot them, and the fog is sent ahead of soldiers to turn their enemies against each other. Troops are ambushed with arrows, and a main character gets a near fatal wound from an arrow after being dragged by a team of fleeing mules. One character has a disturbing backstory: When he was a child, his father forced him to fight dogs so he could win money. Sophia, the main character, continues to grow into a great role model. She highly values her friends and their shared traits: having principles, having courage, and caring for fellow travelers and friends.

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What's the story?

THE CRIMSON SKEW finds Sophie after her adventures in the Papal States (Spain) traveling through the New Indies (the Caribbean) with pirates Calixta and Burr and back to New Occident (the eastern U.S.). Sophia hopes that a prophetic map given to her in Spain will lead her to her long-lost mapmaking parents and that there's a way they can be saved from the fate of the faceless Lacrima that wander between eras. Sophia and Calixta run into trouble right away when they reach New Orleans. A friend is hunted by the police, and they must disguise themselves to take a train north. They're headed to the Baldlands in the west, where more danger awaits. New Occident troops are marching to incite war against the Baldlands, and a mysterious red fog that causes violent hallucinations has been sweeping through whole towns, leaving carnage in its wake. Sophia's beloved Uncle Shadrack, left behind in Boston under the thumb of the corrupt Prime Minister, knows of the threats and may not be able to warn his niece in time.

Is it any good?

The biggest hope for this trilogy is that the right intelligent, thoughtful, inventive kids discover its brilliance. The Mapmakers Trilogy, with all its complexity both in plotting and details (those amazing maps!), won't appeal to every kind of reader but deserves a faithful readership. The conclusion to the series is the best of the three. It accomplishes what seems impossible at its start: It neatly ties up every intricate plot and subplot it puts in play while introducing some fascinating new characters. We follow Sophia north through the Baldlands on a path of self-discovery, then through his ordeal as a soldier and Uncle Shadrack through his spy work in Boston; all storylines keep up the high tension and interest.

Also, all introduce characters with fascinating backstories. If only we could spend more time with Theo's new hero friend Cassanova, with the spy secretary informant who helps Shadrack, and especially with the three banished sisters in the Baldlands who help Sophia. Maybe S.E. Grove will follow the trend and work on a spin-off. If we're so lucky, please let it be filled with even more inventive maps.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the antiwar message in The Crimson Skew. What did the Old One know about war? What did Cassanova know about it? Why is it important to know the history of war to promote peace?

  • Did you like the way the Mapmakers Trilogy ended? What do you think comes next for Sophia and Theo?

  • Would you like to be a Mapmaker like Uncle Shadrack? What kinds of maps would you make?

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