The Map Thief

The Map Thief

by Heather Terrell

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345494696
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Heather Terrell is also the author of The Chrysalis and The Book of Kildare. A lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies, Terrell is a graduate of Boston College and of the Boston University School of Law. She lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Summer 1424
The Mongolian Steppes, China

The Mongolian steppes thunder as three hundred thousand horses charge across the plains. The ground vibrates from the unison marching of the nearly one million foot soldiers that follow in the cavalry’s wake. The arid soil of the steppes cracks under the army’s weight, and opens into countless new chasms. Without warning, the air grows silent, and the multitudes part. A towering figure on horseback cloaked in vibrant yellow gallops to the front of the ranks. It is Emperor Yongle, His Imperial Majesty of China, heir to the Dragon Throne and the Son of Heaven. The emperor knows that he should not ride unprotected across the steppes. He knows that he should ride shielded from sight, as mere mortals are forbidden to look upon the Son of Heaven. But he loves the fight, and he understands this battle against the rebel Mongol leader may be his last. Yet the emperor cannot help but believe that the gods will favor him with one more victory, as they have done so often in the past. And he must triumph against the insurgent Mongol forces outside on the battlefield in order to triumph against his political adversaries, the mandarins, inside his own kingdom. For the mandarins have been whispering that the rebellion is a sign that the gods have forsaken the emperor and his grand plans. The emperor must vanquish the rebels and prove the mandarins wrong before his pliable son and chosen successor, Zhu Gaozhi, starts listening to their whispers and abandons the emperor’s projects when he ascends the DragonThrone.

The aging emperor cannot allow this to happen. He must protect his beloved monuments, the Forbidden City and Great Wall among them, which declare China’s might to the world. He must keep intact the vast empire of tribute and trade he so carefully reconstructed after centuries of neglect. Most of all, he must safeguard his beloved navy, the largest and most advanced the world has ever known, and its plans for far-reaching voyages.

The gods know that he has only ever wanted to make his people have faith in their own rule after so many years of foreign Mongol domination. He must make the Mongol rebels kowtow to him, so that his glorious legacy will not be lost to the mandarins’ self-serving schemings when Zhu Gaozhi becomes the Son of Heaven.

The battle horns cry out, and the air reverberates with their sound. The emperor places his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to fight alongside the soldiers as if he were a mere mortal. He longs for victory, but if he is to die, he will die on these steppes and not caged within the Forbidden City like some rarefied bird.

The fast clap of a horse interrupts the herald of the horns. The emperor wonders who dares to disrupt this moment, his moment. He turns to see his general dismounting and kneeling at his side.

“Your Imperial Majesty, it is not fitting that you should head the troops. I beg that you allow me to lead the charge against the rebel Mongols.”

Staring down at the general, the emperor’s legendary black eyes flash in anger. “Never forget that I am the Son of Heaven. I will ride out among the men.” He watches until the general backs away.

The emperor looks out onto the battlefield. He regrets only that his trusted adviser, Admiral Zheng He, cannot ride alongside him in what could well be his last moments. But Zheng cannot. The emperor has other plans for him.

Emperor Yongle smiles as he unsheathes his sword, spurs on his horse, and roars to the army to follow his lead. He is a dreamer and a gambler, and he will die as he has lived. He leaves it to the gods to decide his fate and his legacy to China.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Map Thief 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Famous conservative kingmaker' Richard Tobias hires art recovery investigator Mara Coyne to find a valuable Chinese map stolen from an archeological dig. This is the type of artifact that Coyne searches for as it is the oldest known map to clearly show the entire globe dating to the early fifteenth century and the expedition of Admiral Zheng to sail around the world. The priceless artifact was smuggled out of China when an Emperor purged any reference to the expedition. It reappeared when Vasco Da Gama used it as a guide in his search for the western sea passage to India. -------------- In the present many groups willing to use force want the map mostly to suppress the evidence that the Chinese came to the Americas decades before Columbus. Mara and archeologist Ben Coleman struggle to find the map and stay alive neither task easy to accomplish.-------------- Fictionalizing the historical theories of Gavin Menzies (see 1421 THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED THE WORLD and 1434: THE YEAR A MAGNIFICENT CHINESE FLEET SAILED TO ITALY AND IGNITED THE RENAISSANCE), Heather Terrell provides a fascinating thriller. The story line is at its best when the focus is on the fifteenth century among Zheng and Da Gama journeys. The modern day cast fails to hold up next to the real historical cast, making most of the contemporaries feel as unnecessary intruders except for Coyne who is the readers guide to the expeditions of Zheng and Da Gama.------------ Harriet Klausner
bookczuk on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Not quite sure why I stuck it out with this book, though I did skim til the end towards the end. There were two back-stories (China 1421 and Portugal 1496) which were what kept me reading. The modern day arc didn't capture me, especially since I didn't read the first book about the main character, and am now not going to read it on principle. I understand back references to help fill in the plot or give background, but these were more annoying than informative. Oh well. The book did help me recall some of the Chinese history that I'd forgotten.
plunkinberry on LibraryThing 22 days ago
A very good tale of mystery and historic "how'd that happen" with a very good main character. I thoroughly enjoy Mara and liked Ben, although he could have played a more significant role. The interwoven history and fiction is a favorite of mine and mapping holds a special place in my interest - all making this a very enjoyable read.
vernefan on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Was Columbus Late? The Map Thief by Heather Terrell is an intellectual historical suspense novel involving a stolen map that is unearthed on a Chinese Archaeological dig. The story's lead character Mara Coyne, is a professional lawyer and sideline investigator. Her job is to return stolen art and antiquities to their rightful owners, the top art collectors of the world. Ever since the Da Vinci Code phenomenon, novel after novel have been pumped out with an incredible amount of art and religious history mysteries. I find this theme enjoyable, but lately felt this topic was waning. But just as I was about to taper off myself on this genre, I found The Map Thief. The title stopped me short as I was browsing my favorite mystery bookstore. The art of cartography has always held my interest so I had to buy it on that subject alone. The story begins with a 15th century Chinese map of the world being unearthed on a dig, and is suspiciously and im mediatel y stolen. Mara, operating out of her home-base office in New York, is contacted by a wealthy collector who wishes to hire her to locate the map and return it. Mara learns that the stolen map is quite an enigma; it is a world map, depicting the entire world long before a time when Europeans were thought to be aware of it. No previously known documentation had ever mentioned that a map of this ilk ever existed from this time period. Three lives entwined, at different points in time, tell this fascinating story. Mara's part in present day New York and with her travels to China, investigate the crime to determine who could have stolen the map and why. The second aspect of the tale, and the section I found to be the most interesting, is told through the eyes of the man who created this map, a monastic eunuch going by the name of Zhi. Zhi's story of how his family sold him to the monastery only to soon lose his manhood, a sacrifice to benefit their wealth, is a sorrowful tale that is enlightened when he is chosen to accompany a large fleet of ships as the court mapmaker to chronicle the travels and exploration in cartographic form. Lastly, the third interjected segment is told through the eyes of Antonio Coelho, another talented navigator also on a major maritime journey of discovery who accompanies the renowned explorer Vasco da Gama of Lisbon. Da Gama is enlisted to map the foreign seas around Africa as the church invites him as a Knight of the Cross, on a mission to Christianize the heathens of the Dark Continent. Alternating chapters of this book soon become intriguing and intellectually stimulating. The reader learns about the art and antiquities world, ancient China, the art of mapmaking, and of early explorers from China and Portugal that jockey for position to be the first to find new land beyond the west of their known world; what we know today to be the Americas. The trio of oscillating stories sail smoothly across a sea of puzzling questions that navigate through uncharted waters to debate just who first found The New World. The author successfully creates a light mystery, while at the same time offering the reader an education and tutored lesson in history, archaeology, and cartography during the Age of Discovery. I truly enjoyed this second Terrell novel and would certainly pick up another. My only small gripe with the book is that I found at times the author's use of language a bit stilted, with a flow that could have been just a tiny bit smoother. A minor flaw that would not deter a reader from a wonderful entertaining read.
DF6B_YuweiW on LibraryThing 22 days ago
This book has very intense and interesting plot. The characterization is full and vivid. The book also has very rich historical information and it is helpful to understanding the Age of Dicovery. I really like this book and I hope Terrell can write more books like that. I'm going to read another book of hers soon.
Lallybroch on LibraryThing 22 days ago
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
writestuff on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Historical evidence reveals that the earliest European world maps show lands and oceans which had not yet been discovered by the Europeans for decades. Many historians have conjectured that it was really the Chinese explorers who first circumnavigated the world, but maps of those voyages were destroyed during the mid-1400s when Emperor Hongxi closed China¿s doors to the outside world. Could some maps have escaped the bonfires and made their way into European explorers¿ hands? It is this question which fuels Heather Terrell¿s fascinating second novel: The Map Thief.The Map Thief is really three interconnected stories which revolve around world exploration, political intrigue, and the art of navigation and mapmaking.In the early 1400s, a mapmaker and eunuch by the name of Ma Zhi is chosen to accompany the famous Admiral Zheng He from China across the Yellow Sea and Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa. Their journey is to continue on from there to discover new territory¿and map it. Zhi is a sympathetic and courageous character who has given up his manhood to bring honor and wealth to his family. His mapmaking is nontraditional and beautiful, and his private life is revealed through his art.In the late 1400s, Antonio Coehlo is a rough-around-the-edges mapmaker from Portugal who finds himself aboard a vessel with the explorer Vasco da Gama in a quest to locate the sea route to India. But there is a secret he must keep - da Gama already knows the way because of an ancient Chinese map in his possession.Mara Coyne lives in present day New York - the head of a company which negotiates the return of stolen artwork. She is contacted by a powerful man who is funding an archaeological dig along the Silk Road in China. A map has been unearthed and is now missing. Mara must travel to China to investigate - and what she finds will uncover a mystery long kept secret.Heather Terrell has done her homework for this richly historical suspense-thriller which weaves together Chinese and Portuguese culture, while exploring the fascinating world of stolen artifacts. The three separate stories come together seamlessly. The Map Thief is suspenseful, but even more so an historical lesson about the early explorers as well as art.If there is a flaw in the book, it is Terrell¿s development of Mara¿s character and relationship with Ben, the archeologist in charge of the dig. Their interactions feel contrived at times, and the chemistry they supposedly were building lacked conviction. Despite this, the book exhibits fine pacing, engrossing detail, and tantalizing setting.Heather Terrell¿s debut novel - The Chrysalis - introduces Mara Coyne¿s character and should probably be read first. But, The Map Thief can also stand on its own. I¿m looking forward to reading more from this talented writer.Recommended.
harpua on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Seems like other people really liked this book. It did nothing for me. While I've read worse books, this was just an ok one for me. There was very little suspense for me. Basically I knew what was going to happen almost from the first page. The conclusion was predetermined and only the path was a mystery, but even the path didn't include much thrill or excitement. It was just a story and nothing really memorable occured. While some seemed to think the switch between time frames to tell the whole story was a nice medium to convey the story, I found it distracting. Don't get me wrong, without those flashbacks, this book would have been awful, but the chapters were short and with the context switch just about every chapter (every 2-3 pages) it at times was confusing. With such short chapters it wouldn't have hurt if we could have thrown 2 or 3 chapters per time frame together in a group. The concept was interesting and the story has a lot of potential, but to me it was just a so-so novel. Being a fairly short novel, it didn't take much time to read so that was a plus as minimum time was invested. I may keep an eye out for future Heather Terrell novels, but I probably won't go out of my way to grab one.
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