Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: The Cartographer's Daughter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I received a free ecopy of this book from Netgalley and Knopf Books in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Cartographer's Daughter
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Length: 304 pages
Format: ebook
Source: Netgalley

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island's Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer's daughter, she's equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island's forgotten heart. 

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland -- and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself. 

From this young debut author comes a beautifully written and lyrical story of friendship, discovery, myths and magic -- perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Frances Hardinge, or Katherine Rundell. 

My Thoughts:
Isabella lives with her father in a small village on an island that they are forbidden to leave. Her father spent his youth traveling all over the world and making maps and Isabella can only dream of doing the same. But she doesn't want to go out into the world to make maps. She just wants to go to the center of the island. Why are they forbidden to go there? When a village girl is murdered, Isabella's best friend, Lupe, the daughter of the Governor, runs away into the land of the Banished. Isabella really just wants to find her friend but she takes the opportunity to map the land as well. But there's a darkness on the island. A force that has sent hordes of animals stampeding into the ocean to drown, a darkness that has plagued the Banished and now the village. Can Isa find her friend before it's too late? 

This was originally published earlier this year as 'The Girl of Ink and Stars' with a completely different cover. That first cover and title caught my attention and had me very interested. I only learned that this is the same exact book after I had read it and I do have to say that I prefer the new title and cover. They fit the actual book much better than 'The Girl of Ink and Stars' even though that is a very lovely title. 

I didn't go into this with many expectations other than to have a good old adventure. We do get an adventure but the story as a whole was a bit confusing. I felt like I was just mysteriously supposed to know things about this story in adavnce. Is it a fantasy world or is this set in the real world in an actual time period that is not mentioned? There are places mentioned like Afrik and Amrica that clearly hint at 'real' but at the same time, there's a chance that they are just 'made up' names for places in this made up world. There didn't seem to be any clear idea of where this island is located and considering that this is a book about a girl who has spent her whole life around maps of the world, leaving out those key details seemed a little strange.
Without knowing whether it is set in a real or fictional place, the book kind of set me adrift and I had a hard time staying tethered to the story. 

The characters were likewise a little hard to understand. I'm not sure if it was lack of description so that I couldn't really picture them or if they just weren't fleshed out enough to care about. Isabella's most memorable quality was her loyalty to her friend Lupe and her father.The fast-paced plot seemed to be the driving point since the characters were lacking and the world-building was rather vague.  

The thing about this book that stuck with me most was the oppression within the village at the beginning of the book. That really set a tone in the beginning that didn't match up with the rest of the book. It felt early colonial era (maybe?) but then the story sort of turned towards mythology or fantasy and led to the confusion. 

Ok, so I haven't had many good things to say about this book but I do think younger readers might enjoy it. It's not a bad story. It just left me with lots of questions. I did like the ending. I really liked the idea of Isa's mother's map that she uses to help her navigate the Forgotten Territories. I can't say anything about the physical book but I've heard that it's quite beautiful with some map-like qualities. This might be the perfect read for others but I was just not very entertained by it. 

My Rating: 3 stars

1 comment:

  1. I've always like maps and cartography so I ca see this one appealing to me. Interesting too that they repackaged this- I think I like the new title too. Too bad it fell a little flat, it certainly looks like it had potential. and the physical copy probably is neat with the map qualities. But I wouldn't like the ambiguity on place and time either. Why the cryptic references to real world places if it's obviously a fantasy?

    Anyway nice review. :)