Review of The Last Mapmaker

The Last Mapmaker The Last Mapmaker
by Christina Soontornvat
Intermediate, Middle School    Candlewick    368 pp.    g
4/22    978-1-5362-0495-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5362-2466-5    $17.99

Following Newbery honoree A Wish in the Dark (rev. 5/20), this is another middle-grade fantasy from acclaimed author Soontornvat. Sai comes from the humblest of humble beginnings but manages to fake it as assistant to Paiyoon Wongyai, Master Mapmaker of the Kingdom of Mangkon. Her exquisite skills with pen and ink are second only to Paiyoon’s, perhaps even surpassing his as he ages. When Paiyoon is commissioned to chart the course of a royal ship en route through dangerous, mythical seas, he takes Sai with him. Deception, treachery, and temptation await her—quite apart from violent storms, sea dragons, and a beleaguered stowaway for whom she feels responsible. Shipwreck and revelation come together, as Sai and the stowaway fend for themselves on the shores of a fabled continent. Class structure, imperial greed, and environmental ravages underpin the narrative arc of this fantastical adventure story, resonating with our own contemporary issues. At the same time, Soontornvat’s Thai-inspired culture and geography provide a vivid backdrop. With emphasis on an intricate plot and quick, accessible prose, Soontornvat provides plenty of excitement while bringing questions of expansionism and decolonization to young readers.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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