Becoming assistant to mapmaker Paiyoon has been Sai's first and only chance to escape the life she was born into. But in a birth-based society where your ancestry determines your future, Sai has to keep her con father and home in the marshes outside the city of Mangkon a secret--or risk Paiyoon's employment and the only chance she's ever had to earn enough to escape her father and the low status afforded to her by her birth.
When she and Paiyoon are given a place on an expedition intended to map the southernmost reaches of the world, Sai is thrilled. Here, at last, is her chance to escape her life and Mangkon and use her wages to start over somewhere where no one knows her.
But Sai isn't the only member of the ship not telling the whole truth, and when she discovers the expedition may be headed for the mythical Sunderlands, land of dragons, riches, and the impossible, Sai must decide what she's willing to give up to reach the future she's worked so hard for.
The Last Mapmaker is an expertly paced, imaginative fantasy novel which I couldn't stop reading until the final page. Sai is the rare protagonist who doesn't always do the right thing, but always does it in a way so understandable and relatable that a reader can't help but sympathize with her decisions; I love how her choices and feelings drive the course of the story. Without using excessive description, Soontornvat's writing makes this world bloom in my mind, and I had a very strong sense of place throughout this book. I loved the details of the setting, particularly Mangkon and the legends about the mysterious Sunderlands. I highly recommend The Last Mapmaker to readers ages nine and up, particularly those who enjoy fantasy novels with strong heroines and complex characters.