This will be the map of your heart, old woman. In an ancient time, in a faraway land, a young woman named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom’s mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire domain. Traveling beyond its borders, she finds a secretive people who live in peace, among great wealth. They claim to protect a mythic treasure, one connected to the creation of the world. When Aoife reports their existence to her kingdom, the community is targeted as a threat. Attempting to warn them of imminent danger, Aoife is exiled for treason and finds refuge among the very people who had been declared her enemy. With them, she begins a new life surrounded by kindness, equality, and cooperation. But within herself, Aoife has no peace. She cannot share the grief she feels for the home and children she left behind. She cannot bear the warrior scars of the man she comes to love. And when she gives birth to their gifted daughter, Aoife cannot avoid what the child forces her to confront about her past and its truth. On this most important of journeys, there is no map to guide her. In this tale—her autobiography— Aoife reveals her pain and joy, and ultimately her transformation.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Rounded up to 5 on Goodreads.
Rounded up to 5 on Goodreads.
There are books that take risks and pay for it with polarizing reviews. The Mapmaker’s War is one of those books, but luckily, I was one of those who really enjoyed it. Set up as an autobiography as a woman living in an ancient kingdom, we follow the life of an aspiring mapmaker and the war that comes about as a result of her ambitions. This review will mostly be concerned with the elements of this book that I considered risky, so that you can go into this with a better guess of whether or not this book is for you.
Seeing as this is meant to be a memoir of sorts, The Mapmaker’s War is character-driven rather than plot-driven. The ending it more of a fizzling out than a big bang, since most people’s lives tend to calm down towards the end… especially if they have the time to be settling down and writing a book about their life. The conflict is largely internal, and the ending reveals no big twist or battle scene. Anyone who goes into this thinking they need to trudge through the first half to reach some imagined action-packed second half are making a mistake.
Being written in an unconventional style, namely the fact that it’s written in second person rather than the more commonly used first or third person, this may be hard to get into for some. This writing style made for an intimate reading experience in my case. I know readers used to a more common style will be put off, and if you can’t get used to it by the third chapter, you’ve probably got very little hope of adjusting to the book.
Gender, specifically what it means to be a woman, is a big theme in this book. Domingue seems to manage a feminist flavor in all of her books (There is one I’ve yet to read, but even the synopsis reveals the feminist spin), and The Mapmaker’s War in particular deals with some sensitive topics, i.e. reproductive rights. Those interested in either feminism or gender studies will probably get more out of what this novel has to offer.
The characterization in The Mapmaker’s War reflects the story as a whole. This is a mix of history and mythology, of ‘reality’ and fairytales. This is true of the characters as well, in a way. Our cast of characters contains individuals that are archetypal but real. While they are inspired by archetypes, they don’t come off as cardboard cutouts at any point in the story.
Overall, I loved this book and couldn't put it down. Would recommend to those willing to try something new!