Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s Cartographer’s Daughter lacks context

THE CARTOGRAPHER’S DAUGHTER, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Knopf Books for Young Readers, Nov. 1, 2016, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10 and up)

If you’re looking for a book that transports you to an exotic local in a different time, The Cartographer’s Daughter might be a good option.

Isabella lives on the island of Joya. It is said that Joya was once a place of music and freedom. Isabella knows nothing of that. When the island’s brutal governor arrived, ravens drove out the native birds, and freedom to move around disappeared. As long as Isabella can remember, people have been forbidden to travel beyond the forest.

But strange things are happening on the island. When the governor’s daughter disappears, it’s up to Isabella — daughter to the island’s only mapmaker — to lead a search party into the forest and beyond. As the party travels deeper into the island, it begins to appear the legends of Joya may be more than legends after all.

The Cartographer’s Daughter is different in tone and storyline. It takes a while to get into. This, in part, comes with an opening that offers no context. You are essentially dropped into a strange, sort of familiar, but not really, new world and expected to figure things out on your own. While I don’t mind this convention on occasion, it’s hard to really make it work, especially with middle grade.

Once I felt like I understood what was going on, The Cartographer’s Daughter became a lot more enjoyable and the pace picked up considerably. Author Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s prose is smooth and easily accessible. And I thoroughly enjoyed elements of magical realism — again once I felt grounded.

The Cartographer’s Daughter is an imaginative adventure best suited for more mature readers who are willing to give the beginning a little more time and effort.

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About Author

Jessica Harrison is the main reviewer behind Cracking the Cover. Prior to creating Cracking the Cover, Jessica worked as the in-house book critic for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. Jessica also worked as a copy editor and general features writer for the paper. Following that, Jessica spent two years with an international company as a social media specialist. She is currently a freelance writer/editor. She is passionate about reading and giving people the tools to make informed decisions in their own book choices.

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