“There's nothing wrong with being a mapmaker."


"Of course not. And there's nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be a hawk."

Alina and Baghra talk about her inability to use her power unassisted in Chapter 12. Alina’s statement about being a mapmaker comes after Baghra goads her into exploring what has been holding her back from using her power and sarcastically asking her whether she would rather be back in her old life as a cartographer.  

The first way of reading this is as a statement about self-knowledge. Alina has convinced herself that she is something other than what she truly is. Alina is battling against her own identity. The hawk genuinely believes it is the lizard, so the hawk does not know itself at all. By extension, Alina has failed herself by denying what she truly is. Another way to read this is as a commentary on the nature of fate. A person “born to be” one thing (the hawk) who tries to be something else (the lizard) is battling against their own destiny. As we come to learn, Alina’s own battle leaves her physically frail as she has been exhausting herself by keeping her power buried for years. This reading aligns Alina with a tradition of literary heroes who try—and usually fail—to change their own destinies.