The Golden Specific: The Mapmakers Trilogy, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Golden Specific: The Mapmakers Trilogy, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Complex fantasy sequel more absorbing than first book.

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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? Also, Sophia visits Spain during a disease outbreak. While the disease isn't real, how humans react to this fear draws parallels to recent history.

Positive Messages

Chapter 39 includes a profound passage on growing up: "Was this always part of growing older? Sophia wondered. Realizing the world was not obliged to give you what you wanted, and more importantly, deciding what you would do and how you would feel once the realization arrived. Would you sit back and resent the world? Would you make peace with it, and accept the unfairness without rancor? Or would you try to find and take what the world had not provided? Maybe all three, she reflected, at different moments." Other themes include dealing with loss and the journeys taken toward healing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sophia is so guided by her desire to find her parents that she lies to strangers and those close to her and trusts anyone who says they will help her. She learns hard lessons about this when she gets stranded by herself. Her bravery, resilience, and smarts help her out of tough situations. Theo also does plenty of lying, including hiding evidence in a murder case, but his determination to free the wrongly accused at any cost to himself is admirable. So is his stand against his abuser from his childhood. He also decides to forgive himself when he can't fix everything himself.


A contagious disease outbreak causes many to lose their will to live. Many people are rounded up and quarantined, and three men die in close proximity to main characters who don't catch the disease. A girl recalls a story of her sick mother wandering off before she can infect her daughter. A man is found stabbed to death. Strange sea creatures attack a ship and her crew at night with many lives lost; giant birds attack and are killed. People are sentenced to walk into another world where they could lose their faces and be killed by poisonous thorns; a horse is killed by the thorns. A man is shot with an arrow, and another is killed with a sword. Three others are tortured by fire. Crows pick over a dead body. Flashbacks to abuse against one of the main characters -- he was enslaved, his arm bitten by a dog. A few instances of arson involving a tavern and a docked boat. Hordes of people run for their lives when a wave of molasses explodes from a boat during a riot.


Some flirting by teens and adults.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Golden Specific is the second book in the Mapmakers Trilogy, following The Glass Sentence. Publishers are marketing this series to ages 10 and up. Although the maturity of the content is about right for the age, this story is pretty complex; readers 12 and up are more likely to stick with it. In search of her parents, the resourceful main character, Sophia, lies to get information and ends up stranded by herself in a foreign land where people are dying of a strange disease. There are many stories of people being rounded up and quarantined before they die, including one of a girl whose mother wanders off before she can infect her daughter. More violence in the story includes a man found dead, another killed with a sword, sea creatures killing men in a shipwreck, giant birds attacking, arson and riots, and people sentenced to walk into a world where they can lose their faces (high creep factor) and get stabbed by poisonous thorns. Readers fully immersed in this world full of fractured time periods can ponder a whole lot of what-ifs: What if the U.S. Civil War never happened or the United States never expanded West?

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What's the story?

Sophia is back in New Occident -- 1890s Boston -- still determined to find her parents. She's thrilled when she uncovers clues to a diary her mother kept on the journey when she went missing. The only problem: The library where she found the lead is run by the fanatical cult, and the library where the diary is kept is across the ocean in Spain, which is stuck in an earlier time period and ravaged by a strange disease. Still, she's determined to book passage across the Atlantic and finds an easy way onto a ship departing the next day. When she can't convince her Uncle Shadrack to accompany her, she and her friend Theo make plans to meet on the ship and escape in secret. But disaster strikes at Uncle Shadrack's house before Theo can sneak off: The prime minister is found dead in the map room, and Theo hides himself and the clearly forged evidence of Uncle Shaddrack's guilt in the closet while he waits for the authorities to leave. Sadly, Sophia's ship leaves before the police do and Sophia sets off alone.

Is it any good?

In this sequel, Sophia's lone journey across the ocean to a distant time with a mysterious magical world trapped inside is just one of the intriguing mysteries packed in its 500-plus pages. There's also the murder of the New Occident prime minister in Uncle Shadrack's house, the disappearance of healers called the Eerie, the discovery of a book on a ship written in the future, and so much more.

Author S.E. Grove loves to stack up the mysteries and does a better job in THE GOLDEN SPECIFIC than she did in The Glass Sentence, balancing mystery with almost enough clues to lead the reader along. But still expect some head-scratching over how everything fits together. This sequel is a treat for fans of rich fantasy and will be enjoyed by adults too.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Nihilismian movement in New Occident. What are they collecting in their libraries? Why? Why do they think it's so important that history happen the same way again?

  • Which would you rather have: the powers of the Eerie to talk to all of nature or the power of the prime minister of New Occident to shape history?

  • What map would you find waiting for you in Ausentinia?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy

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