Review of Autobiography of a Traitor and Half Savage by Alix E. Harrow

The Word for Mapmaker is Also the Word for Traitor

“Without us, the land won’t lie still. It writhes and twists beneath their compasses, so that a crew of surveyors might make the most meticulous measurements imaginable, plotting out each hill and bluff and bend in the river, and when they return the next day everything is a mirror image of itself. Or the river splits in two and one branch wanders off into hills that shimmer slightly in the dawn, or the bluffs are now far too high to climb and must be gone around. Or the crew simply disappears and returns weeks later looking hungry and haunted.”

RATING
5/5

STORY SYNOPSIS

“Oona’s blood is a river delta blending east and west, her hair red as Tennessee clay, her heart tangled as the wild lands she maps. By tracing rivers in ink on paper, Oona pins the land down to one reality and betrays her people. Can she escape the bonds of gold and blood and bone that tie her to the Imperial American River Company?
 

STATS

ebook, 30 pages
Published December 14th 2016 by Tor Books
Original Title
The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage

MY THOUGHTS

Oona is a traitor. Born to a westerner woman and an easterner man, she already lived upon the dividing line of two worlds and considered a half-breed child, not enough of either land to be claimed by it. Now she is a mapmaker, and in her native language, a mapmaker means a traitor.

Imagine two worlds, on one side, The East, where the land is claimed and calm. Mountains stay where they are supposed to, rivers do not wind, and bend to patterns of their devising. The West is wild and free. Dangerous and magical. Of course, the people of the East want to claim and conquer the land of the West.

Oona and her brother Ira, son of another lover of her mothers, are trying to make it on their own. Ira is struck down with tuberculosis. Oona must care for him. So Oona becomes a mapmaker. She helps define a path for an Eastern-based company, Great Eastern River Company, that wants to explore and conquer the land. Oona, as a mapmaker, can calm the wildness of the land. The company knows this, so they yoke her to their cause by the love she has for her brother. How will Oona survive the two worlds that are slowly tearing her apart?

Harrow writes with beauty and a keen understanding of the power of words and language. Her narrative is melodic and almost lyrical. She writes as if she is describing the warring of the lands and the wildness of the WestWest in poetry. It is magical. I love that she took the idea of Western expansion and manifest destiny and turned it on its ear.

You can try and manifest your destiny, but what if the land fights back and does not want to be tamed?

In our language, the word for mapmaker is also the word for traitor.

PROCUREMENT

You can access a free copy of this story here.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, READ THESE

The 10,000 Doors of January

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’ve been a student and a teacher, a farm-worker and a cashier, an ice-cream-scooper and a 9-to-5 office-dweller. I’ve lived in tents and cars, cramped city apartments and lonely cabins, and spent a summer in a really sweet ’79 VW Vanagon. I have library cards in at least five states.

Now I’m a full-time writer living in with my husband and two semi-feral kids in Berea, Kentucky. It is, I’m very sure, the best of all possible worlds.

My debut novel–a historical fantasy called THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY–will be out in Fall 2019 from Orbit/Redhook.

My writing is represented by Kate McKean at Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

Comments

Tell me what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.