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Maps are interesting little things. They make use of the stars and the sky and a quickly fraying memory to create a drawing of a world, from the crevices and geographical notches to the stories behind them. Kiran Millwood Hargrave's debut novel, The Girl Of Ink And Stars, creates a surrealistic novel about friends, myths and tracing your own star-touched story.

Set in the fictional island of Joya, our protagonist, Isabella “Isa” Riosse is a fierce and curious thirteen year-old with a knack for creating vivid drawings of the world around her. Map-making, or cartography as she likes to call it, runs in her blood, with both her parents the town’s most renowned cartographers. On the day that everything changed, Isa was on her way to school with her best friend Lupe, the governor’s daughter when word reached her that Cata Rodriguez, a girl in their class, was dead. Killed, to be exact, when Lupe had sent her to find dragon fruit for her. Spurred by the sudden news, Lupe’s guilt creates a rift between the two of them and decides to find out the reason behind Cata’s unfortunate death. Isa, conflicted, decides to follow her best friend, and travel into the forbidden territories. She’ll have to navigate her way through wild wastelands and a labyrinth of emotions to face the myths that weren’t as fictional as she initially thought them to be.

The worldbuilding is rich and well thought-out, Joya and its divisions a vivid setting for the tangential action to follow. I thoroughly enjoyed the character development and characters in general, filled with traits that mirror everyday life and plot twists that undermine the character for the greater good of the story. Something that stood out to me was the intricate foreshadowing, little clues dropped in unsuspecting moments, that, if paid attention to, gave way to a very interesting climax. The first-person point of view only helped the reader to experience the story as their own, along with enthralling prose and evocative description.

"But you always have to finish stories, even if they aren’t all with happy endings."

From the very beginning, I was hooked onto Isa’s adventures and this book will leave you with a lasting impression long after the final chapter.

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Yearling Books, 2018. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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