Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk

The Mapmaker Chronicles: Prisoner of the Black Hawk by A.L.Tait (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9780734415790
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

Prisoner of the Black Hawk is the second book in The Mapmaker Chronicles series.  Verdanian, Quinn Freeman, is the mapmaker for Zain, captain of the Libertas, one of three ships taking part in a year-long race to map the world. Already the crew of the Libertas which includes Quinn's friend, Ash in the guise of a boy, has survived the first leg of their voyage. They have contended with sea monsters, been threatened by murderous natives and the terrifying Gelynions who are in fierce competition with the Verdanians, and experienced treachery from the captains of the other ships. The fear of the unknown remains. Will they eventually fall off the edge of the world into the open jaws of Genesi, the dragon?

There is much at stake for all three ships. The captain of the ship judged to have the best map will be highly rewarded and honoured by the king of Verdania. The recompense for the winning mapmaker has induced all the mapmakers to strive to win, and it is inevitable that unethical tactics will be employed by the Libertas' rivals in order to succeed. Quinn discovers how underhand these tactics can be when the Northern boy, Kurt, who was rescued from the Gelynions and taken aboard the Libertas, betrays him to Odilon, the richest captain in the race. As a result Quinn is delivered into the hands of the Gelynions and held captive on their ship, the Black Hawk.

A.L. Tait has unleashed a terrifying adventure in which the reader despairs of Quinn. Not only is he suffering at the hands of the Gelynions, but another threat arises from bloodthirsty pirates. However, with great skill, a plausible and thrilling way forward is created by the author, using the talents, courage and determination of Quinn and the loyalty of those aboard the Libertas. The story unfolds in such a gripping way that I found this second book in the series almost impossible to put down and read 95% at one sitting.

This series is a great read by an Australian author and children will be transported to a world of action and human endeavour in a most exciting and satisfying way. It also demonstrates that fact can be woven into fantasy and be anything but mundane. Book Three will be eagerly awaited.

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