I was lucky enough to request and be approved to read a copy of this on netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.
The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar, cover art by Karl James Mountford
I absolutely loved this.
Aleja lives near the port in Seville and longs to sail, to travel, to see the world. Aside from her older brother Miguel, her dreams are treated as exactly that – with reactions ranging from fond impossibility to outright ridicule and bullying the fact remains that the idea of a girl or a woman working on a ship is preposterous.
Or is it?
Late one night, while sneaking out to ‘borrow’ books from the University Library (in secret of course – everyone knows girls shouldn’t waste time reading!) she spies a strange ship coming into the port, and sets out to investigate.
And so it is that Aleja finds herself in the midst of a pirate crew sailing away from her home and embarking on a mysterious quest.
And what a crew they are! From the steely and shrewd Captain Quint herself to Malika – calm, cool, collected…and deadly – to Frances, always ready with a yarn to spin and with a talent for thieving and a penchant for cake, this is an all-female crew to be reckoned with. A mixture of skills, personalities and nationalities, they’re a truly terrific bunch.
It’s only fitting then that such a formidable bunch crew no ordinary ship. The Ship of Shadows is made of magic, of legends and stories and rumours; it has secret passages, ghosts and of course shadows, not to mention rooms that change, appear and disappear. It’s fantastic stuff, simply fizzing with magic and imagination.
Then there’s the mysterious quest Captain Quint is on, which sees them battling Kraken, riding camels across the desert in search of a lost city and fighting a skeketon army, which is delightfully frightful.
The places we travel through – and it really does feel as though we’re in there travelling across them too – are rich in detail and vividly described. Aleja is in awe as she experiences them and you really feel that with her.
If krakens and skeletons aren’t enough, there’s added danger from pirate hunters, one in particular who is intent on chasing The Ship of Shadows down, providing some real tension and drama.
And amidst all the excitement, there are more poignant themes of family, friendship and belonging. Of being torn in two directions, of leaving – and missing – home, of following your dreams.
With pirates, magic, exploration and a writing style and sense of place that I loved, this book is definitely one of my highlights of the year and has shot straight into my favourites.
There’s been no word on a sequel but the plot and the ending mean there must be one…surely?! I for one very much hope there is – I’ve been transported across the seas and swept up in adventure and, much like Aleja, I am left desperate for more!