The Mapmaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue

The Mapmaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue

Life is war.

The book in one sentence: The life story and legend of a woman mapmaker and heroine.

Synopsis of The Mapmaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue: Long ago, a girl named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom's mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire land. Years later, she finds a secretive people beyond its borders who live in peace and among great wealth. After her kingdom learns of their existence and perceives them as a threat, she attempts to warn the people of imminent danger. Aoife is exiled for treason, leaving behind her infant twins and her kingdom at war. She finds refuge in a distant village 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 her true feelings of the home and children she left behind. She cannot bear the scars of the man she comes to love, who was traumatized by the war she thinks she caused. The Mapmaker's War is Aoife's tale in her own words, an account of the lies, betrayal, hope, and love that made her who she is. It is a legend in the making.

My two cents:

I was quite entranced by this story, with its folkloric storyline, its gorgeous descriptions and its unusual storytelling style.  

Like the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, this has elements of an epic with its tales of warring kingdoms, dragons, and of bravery. However, it reads like an old wive's tale drawing upon a diverse set of folklore and obscure, untouched communities of old, and mystical realms.

The reader is immersed in Aoife's life story, starting as a young impetuous woman up until her final days, based on the accounts of a rare manuscript that is discovered.

Aoife's family being in a comfortable position in the kingdom, she makes her name as a mapmaker and is allowed the rare task as a woman traveling to chart the kingdom's lands and beyond. She also catches the eye of the prince, Wyl, whom she eventually marries and has twins with.

On one of these charting trips, she encounters a wondrous community of immense abundance and peace, a place where Aoife inexplicably feels at home. Politics and greed steps in. The kingdom views this  idyllic community as a threat and launches war against them. With Aoife's desire to protect this community, she warns them and becomes a traitor in the kingdom's eyes. Forced into exile, she leave behind Wyl and her children, and flees to the community she had protected, who in turn accept her despite her dubious circumstances. Here, she makes her new life and we are brought into Aoife's anguish as she attempts to come to terms with her new life and her past. 


As this is an unusual book, in many ways, so I right off this book may put some people off. I had a few false starts and stops with this one. The book started strangely with a so-called Translator's Note which kind of confused me because it talks about the "source language," how the story was based on a handwritten manuscript, and then highlighting name pronunciations (e.g Aoife [ee-fah]).

Then the story is told in second-person narration, as if the reader (well, me) were Aoife, which makes it a rather surreal experience to read it. For example:
You had more immediate troubles tearing you in opposite directions. There was your ungratified rut for Wyl, and his for you, and the futility you'd brought on yourselves. He was still not promised to a princess. You remained the object of his attention. He was not yours to indulge or keep. - p 23, ARC
This grated on me in the beginning but I stopped overthinking it and just went with it. By then the storyline took over and I enjoyed seeing things, feelings things, experiencing things as Aoife.

Verdict: An unusual heroine in unusual times and told from an unusual point of view. Gorgeous descriptions, part folklore and part legend. If you want something different, I highly recommend this!

I won an ARC of The Mapmaker's War through Goodreads First Reads. 

The Mapmaker's War by Ronlyn Domingue

1 comment

  1. I've never read a book in second person but this sounds like such a lovely story. I hope I can past the POV, if not totally enjoy it. My friend started reading the copy I signed out from the library but only managed 50 pages. Sounds like a challenge to me! :)


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