The Last Mapmaker

Candlewick. Apr. 2022. 368p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536204957.
Gr 3-6–Living a squalid life helping her conman father with his get-rich-quick schemes, Sodsai Mudawan uses her own cunning to secure an Assistantship with the Master Mapmaker of the Kingdom of Mangkon. Fortune favors her bravery even further when a declaration from the Queen provides an opportunity to join her master Paiyoon on a daring voyage to chart the shadowy Sunderlands, a region rich with secrets and sea monsters. The monetary prize attached to the expedition is just what Sai needs to free herself from her troubled past, but as her master wrestles with his culpability in the kingdom’s expansion, Sai begins to have her own conflicted feelings over what she is willing to do (and sacrifice) to make her dream a reality. The spare, evocative prose immediately places readers in the hold of the story, and the Dickensian colorfulness of the characters and Sai’s clipped delivery will have kids tearing through pages at an eager pace. Soontornvat brings a naturalness to her worldbuilding in this Thai-inspired landscape that will allow fans of magical realism and high adventure to find a tale worth cherishing.
VERDICT A gripping story with multiple layers, including action, magic, and a thought-provoking through line of colonization and the role of manifest destiny, this original novel will leave middle grade readers wanting to journey through this land of dreams and dragons again and again.

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