cover image The Last Mapmaker

The Last Mapmaker

Christina Soontornvat. Candlewick, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5362-0495-7

Soontornvat’s (A Wish in the Dark) imaginative Thai-inspired fantasy centers 12-year-old Sodsai, who goes by Sai and assists the royal navy’s Master Mapmaker in the fictional Kingdom of Mangkon. While other kids gained Assistantships through familial connections, Sai landed hers by chance, purposefully obscuring her modest background. When the queen announces “a venture to extend the boundaries and glory” of Mangkon, with a hefty prize for those who succeed, Paiyoon invites Sai, who agrees immediately. She’s desperate to leave her “lowlife” father and delay the traditional 13th birthday ceremony during which kids are given a lineal, a bracelet whose gold links represent each generation of ancestors—“ones you were proud to claim.” Through Paiyoon’s growing guilt about his role in the empire’s expansion, Soontornvat deftly discusses themes of colonization and “discovery,” complicating Sai’s desire to visit the fabled Great Southern Continent, rumored home to dragons. Employing a presumed Asian cast of well-developed crew members with various skin tones and plenty of emotional depth, this high seas adventure deftly explores complex power dynamics and class hierarchies while maintaining a fast-paced clip. Ages 8–12. Agent: Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, Red Fox Literary. (Apr.)