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I waited far too long to read this book. I'd heard good things about it but had somehow managed not to hear anything about the plot before eventually reading it earlier this month. So, I had the rare opportunity to read a book with no preconceptions about the plot or if it was "my" kind of book. Thankfully, it was my kind of book.

Official blurb:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

There is so much I loved about this book, so let me start with what a physically beautiful book it is. The cover is gorgeous, but so is each page with its edging filled with map imagery. It gave me the impression I was reading an older story, maybe because it reminded me of illuminated manuscripts and a time when books were individually hand-made. This level of care and detail really adds to the book and shows the love that went into its production.

The second thing I loved was the world building. Millwood Hargrave's world was believable and easy to understand quickly without relying on existing worlds or stereotypes. It had hints of familiarity without falling into any specific category I have seen. Often writers can use existing worlds (real or imagined) and then build their own worlds on that foundation. Sometimes it helps lend it more depth (for instance Alwyn Hamilton's world in Rebel of the Sands pulls from wild west and Arabian nights worlds to give the reader something both familiar and new), but it is still refreshing to see such a new world that doesn't quite fit any existing tropes.

The third thing I loved about this book was the use of maps and cartography in building a sense of wonder and adventure. Isabella has a strong desire to map her island and to explore beyond its edges. It's easy to imagine that if you had the opportunity to go somewhere only a few people had ever been before that it would be hard to resist. There are few things more intriguing than a map with bits unfilled (here be dragons!) or a map of somewhere only a few people have been (Treasure Island!) I was glad that her quest had a satisfyingly exciting outcome, but I won't spoil the plot in this review.

Overall Girl of Ink and Stars is a very fun read and a tale that felt both new and old at the same time. I look forward to more from Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

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