The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat. Candlewick Press, 2022. 9781536204957

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4.5

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? In a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Sai, a 12-year-old girl from the island of Mangkon, works hard as the assistant of Master Paiyoon, the best mapmaker in all of the kingdom. She plays the part of a “proper” girl, with great posture, excellent clothing, and the appearance of someone who has wealth and status. In reality, Sai is from the Fens, the poorest part of the city, and lives with her father, a con man whose debts and illegal jobs barely keep them afloat. Sai desperately wants out of this life, so when the Queen of Mangkon announces an expedition to the southern seas to find the mythical Sunderlands, an island home to dragons and riches beyond imagination, Sai jumps at the chance. But the journey holds many dangers, from sudden storms to stowaways and crew members with hidden agendas. Worst of all, Sai must keep her true identity secret, or else she will lose her dreams of a better future. The Last Mapmaker tells a thought-provoking sailing adventure about mapmaking, identity, and doing the right thing in a status-obsessed world. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? The very end felt a bit rushed, as we skipped huge chunks of time to establish “where the characters are now.” 

To whom would you recommend this book? Children and tweens who like quieter fantasy, or want a break from fast-paced adventure novels. Books such as The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, or The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.  

Who should buy this book? Middle schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Middle school fiction/fantasy

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Laila Carter, Boston Arts Academy, Dorchester MA

Date of review: May 24, 2022

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