In the Kingdom of Mangkon, generational wealth is a literal concept. Golden chain bracelets called lineals show how far back a person can trace their lineage, and the longer the lineal, the more opportunities and privilege go to the wearer. Children receive their lineals when they turn 13, but as 12-year-old Sai watches other kids begin to show off theirs, she dreads her upcoming birthday. In her Apprentice uniform, Sai can fool the higher classes into thinking she belongs, including her employer Paiyoon, Master Mapmaker of the Mangkon Royal Navy. In reality, "there was exactly one link to my past, and it certainly wasn't made of gold"--Sai's father is a small-time criminal, her background not prestigious enough to earn her a lineal. When Paiyoon receives a commission to serve as mapmaker on a royal expedition, Sai leaps at the chance to join him. But on the high seas, surprising alliances can form and betrayal may be inescapable.
Daring deeds and the shadow of destiny loom large in this Thai-inspired world, and Soontornvat strings a series of dangerous situations and narrow escapes close together throughout the story. The high action factor and hints at possible dragon appearances make 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. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth experience manager, Dayton Metro Library