Saturday, 19 February 2022

The Girl of Ink and Stars


Picked this up because I liked the cover and the title:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her cartographer father once mapped. When her best friend disappears, she's determined to be part of the search party.

Guided by an ancient map and her knowledge of the stars, Isabella navigates the island's dangerous Forgotten Territories. But beneath the dry rivers and dead forests, a fiery myth is stirring from its sleep.

It won both the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and British Book Awards' Children's Book of the Year in 2017. 

It's an adventure story set on the fictional island of Joya, though reference to real-life places such as Africa, America and India (spelled Afrik, Amrica and India) give the sense that it is rooted in our world. Like the best fiction, it didn't happen - but it might have done.

According to the blog, Like Telling the Truth:

The mapping coordinates of the fictional Isle of Joya are given on the opening page of the book, so of course I went to Find Latitude and Longitude and looked them up! Hargrave has based her tale on La Gomera in the Canary Islands, Spain. This is the very port from which Christopher Columbus set sail on 6th September 1492, intending to sail to the Indies under the patronage of Queen Isabella. 

The lead protagonist is indeed called Isabella. She is a mapmaker's daughter, and who doesn't like a story about mysterious maps?

There was only one map that showed the whole of our island, and it hung in Da's study... It had always felt like a sign that Ma and Da were meant for each other, that he was a cartographer and her only heirloom was a map.


Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.

Full of dark places and mystical fears:

My body eased through the slight tug of the current. I had forgotten the sensation of weightlessness... Swimming in the sea was different though, the water was black beneath me, and after a while I scared myself imagining what was below and had to get out.

It was an easy read. Reminded me a bit in style of Naomi Novic, and in subject of the Netflix series Shadow and Bone, which also centres around a mapmaker stuck in a land you're not allowed to leave. Shadow and Bone was adapted from books by Leigh Bardugo, but I haven't read those yet, hence the Netflix reference - sorry. But similar themes and a plucky female protagonist who has to fight to be allowed to go on an adventure.

I'd probably suggest the tree format over the audiobook. The audiobook is very well narrated, but one of the main characters is a bit annoying and has a voice to match. Some awful things happen to her, but, because of her voice, I felt more relieved than sympathetic. Reading it for yourself, you might find that she's more relatable. 

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