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The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar
Published By: Puffin Books
Released: 16th July 2020
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Aleja whiles away her days in her family’s dusty tavern in Seville, dreaming of distant lands and believing in the kind of magic that she’s only ever read about in books. After all, she’s always being told that girls can’t be explorers.
But her life is changed forever when adventure comes for her in the form of a fabled vessel called the Ship of Shadows. Crewed by a band of ruthless women, with cabin walls dripping with secrets, the ship has sailed right out of a legend. And it wants Aleja.
Once on board its shadowy deck, she begins to realise that the sea holds more secrets than she ever could have imagined. The crew are desperately seeking something, and their path will take them through treacherous waters and force them to confront nightmare creatures and pitch-dark magic. It will take all of Aleja’s strength and courage to gain the trust of her fellow pirates – and discover what they are risking everything to find.
I do love a good Middle-Grade adventure, so when I found out about The Ship of Shadows I knew I had to read it ASAP! Also, the fact that it was about pirates just had me wanting to read it even more. So, when I finally got my hands on a copy I dived straight in.
The Ship of Shadows follows Aleja, a young girl whiling away her days in her family’s tavern in Sevilla. Aleja is a dreamer and is often found dreaming of faraway lands and magic that she’s read about in her many books. Aleja longs for an adventure but is told that girls can’t be explorers. Her life is changed however when a ship called The Ship of Shadows sails into Sevilla. The ship wants Aleja and she soon finds herself aboard. Once on the ship, Aleja discovers secrets about the sea that she could have never dreamed of, and finds herself on a mission with the other crew members to find something that could change them forever.
WOW! This book had everything I could want from a middle-grade adventure and more. It has kick-ass female pirates, a thrilling plot, amazing magic and characters that just stuck with me long after I’d finished reading. I can honestly say I was captivated by it and did find it hard to put down at times. When a book does that to me, you know it’s a great one!
Plot-wise, it was well-paced and I didn’t find anything moved too fast or too slow. The adventure you are taken on does leave you utterly absorbed and you are left wanting to know what happens next after each chapter. The magic system within the book is fascinating and the shadows that linger on the ship captured my interest straight away, and I would love to know more if I’m being honest. Additionally, the way the magic is linked to legends and stories, I found to be so unique and the way it was all woven together is commendable. Throughout the book, we are taken to different settings, each one being rich in detail. We went from Sevilla to Tangier to Marrakesh and I felt like I was exploring these cities along with our characters, that’s how thorough the descriptions were and I soaked it all up!
Female pirates? Erm yes, please! I loved each and every one of the pirates we meet onboard The Ship of Shadows and each one had a unique personality trait that I fell in love with. Also, I found the fact that each one was of a different nationality to be very diverse and distinctive to the story. It was fascinating to hear about each of their backgrounds and through this, I felt close to each of them. I applaud Maria for her incredible character creation and development, it’s one of the best I’ve seen in a book this year, for sure.
Aleja, was such a strong, determined character who yes, had her struggles which included deciding whether to stay on the ship as a pirate or go back to her family, but she took it all in her stride and didn’t let it stop her from doing what she thought was right. She’s also brave and curious about the world and her longing for adventure is one of the things that drew me to her. Her love for books and languages also stood out and resonated with me, as I adore those things too. Her friendship with Frances melted my heart, and it was touching to see such a close relationship form within the events of the story. I can’t wait to see how their relationship develops over time in the next book.
The Ship of Shadows was an engrossing, fast-moving, utterly magical read that I will be thinking about for weeks and months to come. It’s one of the best middle-grade books I have read this year and is one that anyone of any age will be mesmerised by.