The Map of Moments: A Novel of the Hidden Cities
by Christopher Golden & Tim Lebbon
Cover Artist: Stephen Martinez
Review by Drew Bittner
Spectra Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553384703
Date: 27 January 2009 List Price $12.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Max Corbett never wanted to return to New Orleans. The girl he'd loved had betrayed him... and now she was dead, killed by Hurricane Katrina. He returned to the crippled Big Easy to seek closure. What he got was a map.
Led into secrets and magic by a mysterious old man, Max discovers that his lover Gabrielle had a destiny cut short by evil--but that nothing is forever, not even death, when it comes to New Orleans. Guided by an old man named Ray, Max's map takes him to key moments in the city's history; he sees its founding and the rise of an insidious evil that rules from the shadows.
That evil becomes aware of Max and his odd journey, and moves to stop him. A slick operator named Coco and his gang of thugs attempt to intercept Max and disrupt his progress, but the college professor proves more resourceful than they suspected and evades their snares. He is also able to glean information about his "moments" from a former colleague at Tulane University--a sad caretaker of a dormant college. Max soon realizes, however, that he will bring danger and even death to anyone near him... and the end of this journey is to be his alone.
Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon have crafted a love letter to New Orleans in The Map of Moments, the second novel in their Hidden Cities series. With Max as both guide and student, they trace the history of this great city and evoke a melancholy bleakness, as the city comes to a crossroads with the arrival of Katrina. A storm long feared, the Rage bids to tear the heart from the city--and Max becomes an unlikely hero to prevent that from happening. Golden and Lebbon have set their hero a singular challenge: he can save a single life, perhaps at the cost of his own, but will consign that person to an existence of endless vigilance and peril.
A heartbroken university professor, Max is an unlikely hero, but he displays bravery and tenacity as he works through the city's core mystery. He learns the nature of the battle against evil waged from the bayoux to the Lower Ninth Ward and beyond; he also learns the stakes should the evil win. Golden and Lebbon have given him a strong motivation and write him well as he struggles against ignorance (a professor's mortal enemy) and rapacity alike.
Coco and his master, Matrisse, represent the dark undercurrents that swirl through the Old South. Their powers are considerable but are vulnerable to someone like Max, who is not steeped in the traditions that give them power and protection. The rules by which they work are byzantine but internally consistent, and their personalities are strong and evocative of the Big Easy's friendly, predatory nature.
Finally, as the girl around whom so much depends, Gabrielle's own actions become clear as Max penetrates the mysteries surrounding his dead lover. Nothing is ever what it seems to be, in magic or in New Orleans. That Gabrielle is not some innocent bystander only makes her more interesting, and worthy of being the object of Max's devotion.
Fans of unconventional urban fantasy will enjoy following this map into some very interesting places indeed.