Maria Kuzniar: The Ship of Shadows – Secrets of the Stars (Puffin Books – Penguin Random House 2021)
Maria Kuzniar, like her protagonist, Aleja, is always planning her next adventure. However, Aleja had not yet been part of an adventure. She lives with her father, her brothers and grandmother and works in the family tavern in Seville. She doesn’t have a friend either, because she can’t play with the boys since she’s a girl, and the girls exclude her because she’s too boyish. And except an odd old sailor, only she believes in magic. One night, however, the Ship of Shadows, known from legends, harbors in the port. Aleja joins the crew of all-women, where she finally feels at home: she can travel the seas as a pirate while searching for mysterious treasures. By the end of the trip, however, Aleja will have to decide whether to return home to her family or stay in her chosen home.
In middle grade novels, the protagonist usually has no family, so they are free to start new adventures as they have nothing to lose, but here the writer depicts a real problem of what happens when one has to choose. In the second volume, Aleja is still a member of the ship’s crew and she and her companions are eager to start a new adventure and find the second piece of the magical map. But not everything goes according to plan and they have to face their greatest enemy. And Aleja, meanwhile, has strange visions, but she doesn’t know what they mean, but she must find a way to decipher the messages and prove that she is truly worthy of her place in the ship’s crew. . .
In the book, in addition to a realistic description of the cities the author also accurately depicts the characters, along with all their flaws, making the story seem even more real. The story is not fast, it requires more in-depth reading, but in return, the author creates such an atmosphere that we can feel as if we are in the book. I don’t think we need more than that.