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.
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.
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.