Friday, April 8, 2022

Review of The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
Format:  Paperback-ARC
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Number of pages:  368
Publishing: April 12th, 2022
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line:  "I must have looked like all the other assistants standing in line for breakfast that morning at the Three Onion Cafe."

Sai lives in Fens with her father, Mud and his friend Catfish where she is forced to assist them in their schemes to earn money.  Sai dreams of the day that she can leave Fens and has secretly been hiding a portion of the wages she earns at her job.  Mud thinks she works at the fishing dock and is none the wiser.  To acquire her position, Sai needed to lie about her age and where she lives, so the esteemed mapmaker, Master Paiyoon would hire her as his assistant.   However, her ruse might be coming to an end as when she turns thirteen, she should receive her lineal, a bracelet with links ticking off each generation in her family and there is no way that Mud could afford to buy her one.  Plus, Master Paiyoon has been asked to join an expedition for the Queen of Mangkon to explore the outer regions for lands to expand her empire.  When Sai is offered an opportunity to help Master Paiyoon on the ship, she jumps at the chance.  Given his new onset of tremors, and her ability to mimic his skills, he agrees that she would be an invaluable asset to him on the voyage by drawing the map of their route.  The expedition initially goes well, but then Sai discovers a stowaway onboard, Bo.  She also recognizes one of the sailors, Grebe as the boy she ran into in Fens, and risks being outed by him because he is aware of the secrets she's been hiding from Master Paiyoon.  When the Captain suddenly falls ill, the voyage takes a dramatic turn when the captain's friend, Rian takes command of the ship and convinces the crew to chart a course for the fabled Sunderlands, a place thought to be beseeched by dragons.

I quite enjoy Soontornvat's Thai-inspired stories, A Wish in the Dark was a lovely twist on Les Misérables and her latest book, The Last Mapmaker is an exciting historical fantasy adventure.  Both stories explore a caste system, and The Last Mapmaker also delves into colonialism.  Sai is such a wonderful character, I instantly felt myself rooting for her.  She is determined, kind, and resourceful.  I love how she was driven to improve her living situation and get out from under her father's control, not wanting to lie or cheat for him anymore.  The lineal system or links on a bracelet representing generations was interesting and I especially enjoyed life on the ship with its daily chores and exciting moments when they encountered weather hazards.  My favorite parts were the mentions of the old drawings on silk or fisherman's maps and Sai's relationship with Bo.  Bo's colorful language was hilarious.   Master Paiyoon struck me as a grumpy, set in his ways grandpa to Sai, it was nice that he recognized her mapmaking abilities and supported her even when they had a difference in opinion about heading to the Sunderlands.  Overall, this was a very exciting seafaring adventure. 

*Thank you to Candlewick Press for the Paperback ARC in exchange for an honest review**   

1 comment:

  1. I recently saw this cover- but I didn't know anything about it. Thanks for the intro. It sounds like a good book. I still have A Wish in the Dark on my TBR list.