The Last Mapmaker

 
4.5 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
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The Last Mapmaker
Age Range
8+
Release Date
April 12, 2022
ISBN
978-1536204957
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In a fantasy adventure every bit as compelling and confident in its world building as her Newbery Honor Book A Wish in the Dark, Christina Soontornvat explores a young woman’s struggle to unburden herself of the past and chart her own destiny in a world of secrets. As assistant to Mangkon’s most celebrated mapmaker, twelve-year-old Sai plays the part of a well-bred young lady with a glittering future. In reality, her father is a conman—and in a kingdom where the status of one’s ancestors dictates their social position, the truth could ruin her. Sai seizes the chance to join an expedition to chart the southern seas, but she isn’t the only one aboard with secrets. When Sai learns that the ship might be heading for the fabled Sunderlands—a land of dragons, dangers, and riches beyond imagining—she must weigh the cost of her dreams. Vivid, suspenseful, and thought-provoking, this tale of identity and integrity is as beautiful and intricate as the maps of old.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
The Age of Exploration
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
In this Thai-inspired alternate historical world, Sai is attempting to distance herself from her impoverished upbringing in the Fens by her father, Mud. She has managed to get an assistantship with Paiyoon, a mapmaker, and has managed to get the proper clothing and backstory to continue working for him. As she approaches 13, however, she won't have the money to attend a good school or acquire a lineal (a piece of jewelry showing family heritage) of her own, which will jeopardize her position. When Paiyoon is invited to be part of a expedition motivated by the Queen of the Kingdom of Mangkon. A challenge has been issued for people to travel to the Sunderlands, which some believe don't exist, and acquire property for the kingdom. Paiyoon, as the last traditional mapmaker, is asked to go on the ship Prosperity and draw official maps of the expedition, as well as help with navigation. The Captain is a war hero, Anchalee Sangra. Paiyoon's writing has become very shaky, and he hopes that if Sai comes with him, she can do the work secretly and he can pass it off as his own. Being away from home for a year works well for Sai, so she sets off on the voyage. It's a difficult one, and she's sea sick at first, and there are some boys on the ship who know some of her secrets. She does manage to befriend Rian Prasomsap, a friend of the captains, and this proves to be useful. The journey becomes even more complicated when the captain becomes ill and Rian wants Sai to replace him, but that is just the beginning of their troubles.
Good Points
Sai is a fantastic and resourceful character who has used her talents and energy to better her lot in life, even though it is very difficult to break away from her father and succeed in a world where lineage is extremely important. The lineals are an interesting concept; I wonder how many links (generations) most people in the US would be able to wear? The details of her work with mapmaking, especially working from scraps of cloth on which fishermen had drawn maps, were very interesting, and her relationship with Paiyoon was rather touching. They supported each other, although Paiyoon had no clue about Sai's background. It was also interesting to see women in leadership roles in an alternate Age of Exploration (around the 15th century to early 17th century) setting. There's plenty of seafaring action, as well as some political intrigue, and that makes for a well rounded adventure book with some modern political sensibilities made possible by the alternative world setting.

This almost felt like the second book in a series at first; I felt like I was missing a lot of details about Sai and her work with Paiyoon. Jumping right into her world gets the story off to a good start, but I would have liked a little more information about her world.

This had some similarities to this author's A Wish in the Dark as far as characters and themes are concerned, but lacked the magical elements. It reminded me a lot of Flanagan's Brotherband Chronicles in the amount of sailing details and actions, but was a complete 180 when it came to how colonialism is dealt with. Most older titles about sailing the high seas, like Cadnum's Ship of Fire (2003- a big favorite back int he day) or Dowsell's Powder monkey : the Adventures of Sam Witchall (2005) are going to have problematic content when dealing with exploration and colonization, so this is a good substitute if you like seafaring tales are popular with your students. Leigh Lewis' Pirate Queens would be a great nonfiction accompaniment to this!
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Adventure to the uknown
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What I liked:
Sai is determined to have so much more than a life of helping her father con people and pickpockets. She poses as an apprentice to a mapmaker who is desperate to have his final years mean something. When a once in a lifetime journey to map the unknown is proposed by the queen with a massive off, Sai will do everything to make sure she is on that ship.
The Last Mapmaker is a Thai-inspired fantasy where your ancestors dictate your place in society, and Sai is at the bottom of the rung. This tale is all about maps, mapping out the unknown, encountering mythical lands and creatures, and loyalty to family and friends. The story has some dark elements that might be much for younger readers.
Final Verdict:
Sai is a character with grit, determination, and a longing to be more than what life has dealt her. She is determined to map the unknown but in the end, what is her responsibility for being the author of that map? There are some real-life lessons to be found in the pages of this beautiful story.
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