Mind the Gap, the first collaboration between award-winning and bestselling authors Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, was a solid offering, marred by a slow start and conventional plotting, but ended on a very strong note. Their second collaboration follows a somewhat similar path — slow beginning, powerful ending — but with some key differences.
Firstly, the setting for The Map of Moments is much more interesting than it was in Mind the Gap. No offense against the city, but I’ve read so many books set in London that every time I go back there, it’s like déjà vu. On the flipside, I’ve only read one short story set in post-Katrina New Orleans, so reading a novel in that milieu was a fresh experience. Of course, it also helps that the authors were able to render the environment with such vividness. Not just the devastation, the horrors and the sorrow, but also little moments — a helpful stranger, an optimistic waitress — that expresses hope for the city, that New Orleans will rebuild, that “we’re still here, and we’ll survive”…
Secondly, The Map of Moments features a more inventive plot than its predecessor, revolving around a map that allows the protagonist to visit magical moments throughout New Orleans’ history starting with The First Moment way back in July 15, 1699. By visiting these moments, Max will supposedly gather magic to himself, and once he’s acquired enough magic, he’ll be able to journey back in time and save Gabrielle — the woman that Max loved — from her death during Hurricane Katrina. What really makes this story so fascinating however, is not the concept itself, but the questions that Max continuously uncovers with every new Moment — Why was Gabrielle estranged from her family? Who is Coco? What is the Tordu and why does the very mention of that word inspire such great fear? How is Gabrielle connected with all of this? Who or what is Seddicus? Et cetera — questions that are suspense-building and gut-wrenching.
Thirdly, I found the character of Max Corbett more compelling than Mind the Gap’s protagonist Jazz Towne. For one, it’s because he’s just a regular guy, someone without powers or a preordained destiny that readers can connect and sympathize with on a common level. After all, if you had the chance to save the life of someone you loved, wouldn’t you want to try, regardless of how impossible the methods may seem? Additionally, I liked Max more because he had substance and felt like a real person, an issue which I’ve had with the authors’ characterization in the past. In fact, not only does Max possess substance, but he also evolves over the course of the novel — both naturally and realistically — so the Max found at the end of The Map of Moments is a completely different person.
As to the rest, the writing of Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon is proficient as usual with skillful prose, believable dialogue and well-executed pacing and plotting. My only real complaint is the ending, which I thought was a bit anticlimactic — and perhaps not the ending I was hoping for — but I’m glad the authors stuck to their guns. On a personal note, as good as the Novels of The Hidden Cities are, I still prefer the authors’ own works like Christopher Golden’s Veil Trilogy and Tim Lebbon’s Noreela stories.
Compared to Mind the Gap, The Map of Moments is better written, better executed, creatively superior, and just overall a more gripping and satisfying reading experience than its predecessor. A haunting, yet inspirational novel that could resonate very strongly with readers, The Map of Moments is undeniable proof that Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon make a great team.