This is the book I've been waiting for since I finished The Map of the Sky in 2012. When I saw that it would be available in July this year, I preordered the ebook without consideration for when it would arrive or how much it would cost. The years of yearning!
It all paid off. The Map of Chaos wraps up all the adventures from the first two books in the biggest way imaginable—by describing all the possible universes. How does all that fit into a single book? In the best way. For much of the book, it seems this final chapter will be quieter than world-destroying Martian invasion of The Map of the Sky. And then all the possible universes collide! The reader gets to feel the flash of recognition not only of characters from the previous books, but also of other personages from history. It would be difficult and pointless not to take pleasure in the overarching concept of this novel, which provides a unified theory to explain apparent time travel, ghostly visitations, and authorial inspiration.
Sound complex? It is, and I was often frustrated I hadn't purchased the print version because I wanted to page through what I'd already read in order to update my theory of what was really going on as I got more clues. But in the end, that's part of the fun, and I needn't have worried, anyway, as each element of the universe Palma has created gets its own capsule summary at the last possible important moment.
I mentioned in my review of The Map of the Sky that the characters weren't exactly prime examples of development (but that it didn't matter in the midst of so much action). As the reader witnesses the multiverse unfolding, the more meditative pace of some sections of this book allows for subtleties of character even between the different universes' "twins." Finally, The Map of Chaos is the crowning glory of an exploration of the meaning of love—true, complicated, ugly, and beautiful. Read the trilogy for the romance taken it to its furthest extreme if for no other reason. Above all, it is an ode to imagination and possibility.
The only question remaining is, when will they make the series based on this trilogy? Viewers love complicated plots and alternate history of the Victorian Age. It seems right that the BBC should produce the series, since the stories are so focused on London (in every possible universe). I'm ready, whenever they want to start. I've noticed that Eleanor & Park and Mermaids in Paradise are slated for movie versions. I'm sure it's because of my reviews ;) so let this serve as a stronger hint.
In short, there is no other trilogy like this one, which began with The Map of Time. The best books of the decade, and maybe of all possible decades.
Novels I've Read in 2015:
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Along the Far Shores by Kristin Gleeson
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
A Kiss at Kihali by Ruth Harris
Mermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet
Raven Brought the Light by Kristin Gleeson
The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell