The Last Mapmaker

by Christina Soontornvat (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

From Christina Soontornvat, the visionary and versatile author of two 2021 Newbery Honor Books, comes a high-seas adventure set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world.

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.

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Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review

Exploits on the high seas and complex characters combine in a tale full of both excitement and heart. An engrossing adventure with the feeling of a whole world to be explored. 


Action drives the narrative forward, creating a real page-turner with intriguing characters. . . Blending Age of Sail historical fiction, adventure, and fantasy within a Thai-inspired setting, this original novel will leave readers hoping for sequels.

Horn Book Magazine

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 de-colonization to young readers.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

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.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

For a rousing middle grade adventure filled with scrappy young characters taking control of their own destinies, seek out this latest offering from Christina Soontornvat. . . . This title allows readers to practically smell the salty sea air and feel the creak of wood under their feet as they search the unfolding horizon for land alongside Sai. Even the cover is compelling. . . Students will enjoy exploring the themes of family, fate, and redemption through Sai. —School Library Connection 

A gutsy young apprentice sails off the edge of the map in this bold, high-stakes fantasy adventure. . . The high action factor and hints at possible dragon appearances makes The Last Mapmaker a solid bet to draw a middle-grade audience, and subtle themes of anti-imperialism and environmental preservation add an appealing social message. . . . This bighearted, moving tale of finding one's place and living by a moral compass is eminently seaworthy and set in a rich, thoughtfully built world. —Shelf Awareness
Christina Soontornvat
Christina Soontornvat is a three-time Newbery Honoree, a Sibert Honoree, and a Kirkus Prize winner. Her highly acclaimed backlist includes the middle grade books The Tryout, The Last Mapmaker, A Wish in the Dark, and All Thirteen; the picture book To Change a Planet; and the chapter book series Diary of an Ice Princess and Legends of Lotus Island. Christina lives in Austin, Texas, with her family. You can learn more about her work at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
April 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV001000 - Juvenile Fiction | Action & Adventure
JUV030020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | Asia
Library of Congress categories

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