I came to JF Penn, or Jo Frances Penn or Joanna Penn’s dark fantasy through her Arkane, action adventure thriller series. She uses her theological and psychology background to weave together pieces of human history and the darkest fears and acts of humanity.
The Mapwalker Series continues with the exploration of human history with the added twist of magic. The first instalment, Map of Shadows, takes place in Bath, England and in another realm: the Borderlands. The Borderlands are the pieces of Earth that we choose to forget or ignore. The darkest parts of our pass and the dark secrets we hide in the shadows.
The story begins in Bath where Sienna Farren inherits her grandfathers map shop upon his death. What she inherits is more than a shop, it is an obligation to protect the Earth from the Borderlands. This is news to Sienna who knew nothing of her families past. She is thrust into a dark adventure and learns that her family is an integral part of Earth’s survival as we know it.
I am a newer reader in the dark fantasy genre. But when I took into account J.F. Penn’s background, it should not have been a surprise the darker parts of history she was able to pull her story through. There were enough true historical details– who knew there was an island off of Newfoundland, Canada called Isle of Demons???–to engage me in the story. The writing is fast, dark, with a tinge of romance added in. I don’t really think it needed any romance, but then it opens more opportunities to spin the story into different directions in future books in the series. Having read only the first book in this series so far, I am guessing at what the second story will include.
It is the perfect time of year to get lost in such dark adventures where the world is at stake. Samhain, All Hallows’ Eve, and Día de Muerto, all days where many believe the veil between the living and the dead has thinned. In the Mapwalker Series, J.F. Penn has spun a similar veil between us and the forgotten and hidden. While merriment and prayer are the traditional celebration, her stories are filled with blood and sacrifice.
There is a lot of gore, violence against women (off the page), intriguing pieces of history, and an exploration of darker pieces of humanity wound through the urban fantasy thriller. Be prepared as it is not for the feint of heart.