The Mapmaker s War
by Ronlyn Domingue
Washington Square Press, $15.00, 223pp
Publication Date March 18, 2014
This is the first of a new trilogy. Set in an ancient land, not of our history, lived a young woman, Aoife. In a patriarchal society, she is allowed a rare opportunity to become a cartographer by studying under a master. She travels the land, unencumbered by typical female restraints and thinks herself fortunate and free. When she finds a strange village everything changes. She is welcomed into the village and has a remarkable experience a feeling of perfect peace. She knows she can’t tell anyone or their idyllic existence might be destroyed. Unfortunately, she isn’t the only one to wander into the village; two of her traveling companions also enter the village and eventually report back to their king of their experiences which includes a report of a golden road and stockpiles of treasure and weapons. This is interpreted as a prelude to invasion by those who really just wish to steal. War comes to the village and many other like villages which had existed in solitude for so long.
Aoife tries desperately to stop the carnage and is accused and sentenced for treason for warning the villagers. Her husband, the King, exiles her and she leaves her home, family and two babies. After wandering for a time, she happens upon one of these villages, yet untouched by the carnage, and is accepted. Even knowing who she is and her part in their destruction, they still fully accept her into their society. From them she learns a different way of living communal, equal, and loving.
She eventually falls in love again and struggles with the idea of allowing herself to birth another child; a child she might lose as she did with her first two. She also struggles with the memories of the children she left behind and her love for her first husband. And, later, struggles with raising a unique and favored child amongst a singular people and the continuing threat of war.
It wasn’t a bad plot, actually sort of nice and gentle. There were some disgusting descriptions of the bad things men do during war; I’m not sure if it was really necessary for the story. It felt like a speedbump to me; a jarring moment in the flow of the story. This story is told very differently….the narrator is telling herself the story. That is, the prevalent pronoun is ‘you.’ It is an awkward way to tell a story and ended up feeling like the point of the story, more than the plot. I would have preferred to hear the story in a typical third-person. We don’t get a strong sense of how the narrator actually feels about anything. The world-building was weak; little description of the environs. It was skillfully told, in that voice; but, I didn’t really enjoy it. ~~ Catherine Book