Squeeaaa!!! Yes, I actually made this sound! Why? Well, I just found my second 5-star read of the year!! And we’re already in July, so that means something!!! A pirate ship full of FEMALE pirates (Arrrrr!), the beautiful city of Seville, a young girl who dreams of traveling the world (even though the odds – and her family – are highly against it), a set of deep, interesting, mysterious, multilayered secondary characters – all this and much more is what The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar offers. I have already finished the ebook I got from Netgalley, but today I also received the beautiful, beautiful paperback and I. Am. Stunned. This cover is amazing. You will find more and more details the more you look at it, and when you look through the cutout, you get a glimpse of the mysterious ship this book is about, and how it sails against the backdrop of the setting sun. The sun is sparkly, glittery, and so is the water, and it’s just WOW! So, a big thank you to: the lovely author, Netgalley and Puffin books, as well as Dave @TheWriteReads for yet ANOTHER wonderful blog tour! Your tours are just an instant ‘I’m in’ for me! Okay, but now, after my paragraph of rambles, let’s get on to the synopsis and then my review!
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 realize 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.
Aleja, the heroine and main character of The Ship of Shadows, is dreaming of adventure. Most days, she only finds it in books and doesn’t get around much more than to the harbour of her home city Seville. However, adventure lurks in the little streets and behind the walls of the local library that Aleja often visits at night. Her grandmother as well as the boys her age think that girls are not born to be explorers – but that’s what Aleja wants most in life.
I loved that the young girls doesn’t let anyone discourage her. She doesn’t really have anybody to share her dreams with (and when she does, she gets bullied or cut off mid-sentence), and yet, she never gives up hope. Aleja longs for adventure, and that’s what she’s after. I was over the moon when then – all of a sudden – Aleja finds that the legendary Ship of Shadows, crewed entirely by female pirates, ends up in the harbour of her city! And not only that, she already experienced a sort-of-adventure with one very important crew member!
I love how this book features such a fearless, kickass, brave set of female characters. They have scars and swords and they fight, and they are what Aleja longs to be. Not only that, the crew is also extremely talented. When Aleja finds herself on a mission she’s always dreamed of, she experiences more adventures she could ever have wished for. There’s danger lurking around every corner, behind every wave, there’s huge kraken and beasts that not even her beloved books have taught Aleja about.
Other than the multifaceted characters, I also loved the descriptions of the places in this beautiful middle grade story. There’s a beautiful map in the front of the book (I’m a sucker for maps in books!!), and Aleja and the crew take us on a great adventure of Spain and northern Africa, and you can see it all before you, you can hear the sounds, smell the smells, see the colours and the people and the animals and the foods, and you wish you could join the crew on the Ship of Shadows.
One of my most favourite aspects of the story is that it gives such importance to books. Books have taught Aleja other languages, they have told her of myths and legends and of stories she could dream of, they have been her friends when she didn’t have others. They helped Aleja find her own destiny, even when she wasn’t encouraged to do so. I think this is a beautiful message for a book to have, especially for one aimed at children: To never give up, follow your dreams and discover your destiny – and take it into your own hands!
Before I finish off my review I have to say something else this book has that I really, really loved: Magic. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the ship…well, there’s more to it than you’d think! Watch out – especially below deck…
What can I say? 5 of 5 brilliant, vivid, magical, glittery stars from me. I can’t wait for the next book!!!
Thank you all for reading!
Maria Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world,
which inspired her debut novel The Ship of Shadows. Now she lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as she can and bookstagrams at @cosyreads. She is always planning her next adventure.