Wednesday, 1 March 2017

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

Ink and stars - the two most fundamental tools of the cartographer.

Isa is the daughter of a cartographer, and his unofficial apprentice. The two live on their own, following the deaths of both Isa’s mother and her twin, Gabo.

Isa’s world is one that bears some resemblance to ours – it has continents called Afrik, Europa and Amrica, and oceans called the Frozen Circle, the Vanishing Triangle and the Cerulean Sea. But it is also a world where islands like Joya can be float free to sail across the oceans. And fire-breathing creatures at the centre of the earth may be more than just metaphors for a volcano.

For the time being, though, Joya is anchored to the seabed. And ever since the Governor arrived and took up residence in a grand palace above Isa’s village, the villagers have been forbidden access to the sea or the forest and their lives have shrunk to the little space in between. Isa’s Da no longer roams the world to map its continents, but walks heavily supported by a stick. And the only guide to the Forbidden Forest is an ancient cloth map left behind by Isa’s mother.

So when a girl is found dead in the Governor’s orchard and his daughter, Isa’s friend Lupe, disappears into the forest, it is up to Isa to don the mantle of cartographer and guide the search party into the heart of the island, where no one has travelled for years.

Maps have a magic about them. They can say as much about the people who made them as they do about the lands they depict. Kiran Millwood Hargrave has spun that magic into a tale of adventure that is – as all good heroic journeys should be - about friendship and courage, self discovery and self sacrifice. And just look how that magic is captured in the beautiful cover!

It is a book I would have loved reading aloud to my children when they were that age – and one of six shortlisted for the inaugural Jhalak Prize.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Nation by Terry Pratchett, Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, and (for slightly older readers) Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

Avoid If You Dislike: Adventure tales set in fantasy worlds

Perfect Accompaniment: A large sheet of paper and a set of coloured inks

Genre: Fantasy Adventure for ~9-12 year olds.

Available on Amazon

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