Title: The Ship of Shadows
Author: Maria Kuzniar
Release Date: 16/7/2020
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 51
(see below for breakdown)
I received a gorgeous finished copy from Puffin Books via The WriteReads book tours, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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.
Someone just mentioned a ruthless band of female pirates crewing a mystical vessel with some shadowy secrets and I was instantly sold, but oh that blurb only gives you a small little taste of the bounties this book holds. The Ship of Shadows pulls you into a fabulous world jam packed with riches, from vast libraries, gem covered ceilings, to magic filled corridors and some pretty delicious sounding cake!
It’s sometimes so hard to review a book you loved. I just want to talk about ever scene, every moment that made me fall more and more in love with this book and the world it created. I want to just say "Read it!" and here are a few reasons why you should:
We have a kick-ass band of strong female pirates, with a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, with wide ranging ambitions, fears and personalities. Aleja is a fantastic main character. She is so inquisitive and adventure seeking that it is just a joy to follow. I really enjoyed that it was for Aleja’s perspective. That we got her internal reasoning as she tried to solve the mysteries of the Ship of Shadows, got to know each of the crew members, explored all the magical elements and finds who she wants to be amongst it all, for me was just a great way to follow the story. The Adults are also adults, they are caring but stern again with their own unique personalities and traits that just make all of the characters so well rounded. This is primarily about finding yourself and the found family of the Ship of Shadows and how each of them contributes to Aleja’s journey is awesome. It also has the "Girls can be anything, do anything" message without feeling corny and over worked. Its just women being themselves, pursuing their interests and living their lives on a cool as hell magical pirate ship.
The writing is fantastic! We get fast paced adventure, intriguing mysteries and heart warming moments of friendship and family. I devoured it and I do think I need to go back and re-read as I am sure there numerous quiet little details that I missed in my hunger to continue. All of this is wrapped up in luscious descriptions. Oh can Kuzniar world-build! There is so much immersive description without it feeling info dumpy. You just get a real sense for Aleja’s surroundings. It really makes the magic and wonder come to life. I am a sucker for good world-building. I want to feel like I am there amongst it all, with the sights, sounds and smells and this book does that in spades. Wither it excitedly exploring the magical nooks and crannies of the ship or being saddle sore from riding a camel across a desert you get a real feeling for the world around the characters.
I really loved this, I think it is a book that everyone for 8-80 would enjoy without hesitation. If you are looking for a rich, fun, magical pirate adventure with an awesome female cast, this is the book for you. Just read it!
(Also I should mention there is not one but TWO spectacular libraries in this book. Any one that knows me knows I love a good fictional library and would happily read book after book of characters exploring said libraries)