Book tours, Fantasy, Fiction, Kidlit, Magic, NetGalley

The Most Magical, Empowering Voyage Over Stormy Seas The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Okay, so what have we got here? Magic, pirate women, in fact – a pirate ship with an all-women crew (well, aside from a ghost and an owl), a brilliant library within said pirate ship, adventure and hidden mysterious treasures!! And a girl who gets told that “girls don’t go on adventures” and “girls can’t do anything”, when it’s painfully clear she will kick everyone’s butt by the end of this book. Okay, maybe by the middle of it even? So I’d say Ship of Shadows started off really well!! Let me tell you more about what I enjoyed in this colorful story.

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Check out on Goodreads
★★★✬☆ 3.5 stars
How I read this:
free review copy for blog tour

Aleja is happy enough living with her family in Sevilla, but she will never stop dreaming about having adventures – real adventures, the kind that are dangerous and incredibly interesting. All she can do, for now, though – is to jump over the rooftops at night and steal into the university library to read about pirates, adventurers, discoverers and other people whose life she’s rather be living herself.

But one night… One night Aleja sees a mysterious smoking ship enter the port, and knowing it’s got to be something special, she runs off to investigate. And with that one choice… Everything changes.

Suddenly, Aleja is in the thick of it all, on a magical pirate ship, off on an adventure! But can she really leave her life behind like this? It will be one tough decision. And she’ll try to have enough fun to last a lifetime before she even has to make it.

I Want To Visit That Ship of Shadows!

An image of a dark table in a pirate ship, with maps, books, a pistol and a skull on it; Image courtesy of Milos Duskic from Pixabay

I fell in love with the Ship of Shadows from the first moment Aleja got on it. It was amazing! The ship is full of secrets, books, maps and jewels, and the walls are all covered in some sort of art – drawings, engravings, symbols. Of course, most of it has a purpose, but why can’t it also be beautiful? That’s one thing that we lack in current day – if a thing is useful, most of the time it isn’t important whether it’s intricately designed to look attractive or not. But the Ship of Shadows seemed to have its own character – not only was it alive with magic, but also full of secrets, sounds, ghosts and shadows. (Well okay, one ghost. But the secrets!! There’s plenty of those.)

Maria Kuzniar writes about a truly magical, mysterious pirate ship that any adventurer would want to get on! There are plenty of secrets on it for everyone: Click To Tweet

And what’s interesting is that despite there being a lot of descriptions of every nook and cranny of the ship, the author still left some of it to our imagination – because it seems like the ship still hides so many secrets that we weren’t told about!

The Cover Love Is Well Deserved And Earned

This book’s cover really does it justice! It’s just as colorful inside as it is outside. The ship of magic is full of all sorts of interesting things, and the funnest bit about it is that despite only getting to know a relatively small part of it, you feel as if it’s vast and full of secret rooms anyway. Most likely because it is! New, magical rooms appear whenever they’re “believed enough”, as the ship seems to be a beast made up of legends. Who knows what you’d find if you could visit it? It was very vivid in my mind.

What if you could visit a living ship made of magic, at least in books? Well, you can if you read The Ship of Shadows: Click To Tweet

ship in sunset

An image of a ship at sea, in the backdrop of a beautiful sunset; Image courtesy of Agnesti from Pixabay

The Spirit Of Adventure

I’m not big on adventure myself – you could say I prefer reading about it instead, but Aleja and the Ship of Shadows drew even me in. In this year of quarantine and staying at home, not a lot of us had a chance to have a peek outside their own city – I’m no exception. So I loved the colorful sights The Ship of Shadows showed me – the girls do travel a lot, and all the towns and sights are very vivid. It felt as if I was traveling with them!

At a time when a lot of us are unable to travel, The Ship of Shadows keeps up the spirit of adventure. Take yourself on an imaginary journey: Click To Tweet

I Wish I Had Books Like The Ship Of Shadows As A Kid

This book is perfect for girls. You know how you read all those stories as a kid, where girls were either not allowed to have adventures, or if they did anyway, they were treated as if “it’s okay, she’s a tomboy which is highly unusual anyway”?

This whole tomboy business, I never liked it. I get that they were trying to make it sound like girls CAN have adventures, but that sort of narrative singles out the girls who do – you have to be ‘different’ to have adventures. Which means, that’s not for the regular girl.

The Ship of Shadows turns this around – because although the women in it ARE highly unusual and quite exceptional for their surroundings and time period, the narrative, at least among themselves, is that this is normal, and if the world doesn’t get it – then that’s their loss. I wish girls having adventures and taking their lives into their own hands was presented as naturally as this when I was reading stories as a kid. It would have certainly appealed to me – cause while I wanted to dream of all sorts of fantastical adventures, I also wanted to be the good girl. And so the stories were making me think I had to choose between one and the other. Either you’re a strong woman, or you’re socially acceptable. And it’s time to let these stories go – we need to tell stories of BOTH being a strong woman and acceptable that way. And I believe The Ship of Shadows achieves this in its storytelling. It’s a great message for girls!

The Ship of Shadows tells a story where any girl can be the master of her destiny. And go on an adventure! It's the perfect story for girls: Click To Tweet

A Little Something From Me As A Language Nerd Though

There is, however, one thing I have to nitpick. In this story, Aleja, a girl of a pre-industrial world, learns several languages from books, without hearing them pronounced. They’re not even textbooks – she’s just reading stories. And then when she hears these languages later, she is able to understand without any prior listening practice and she speaks with good pronunciation without having ever heard it spoken.

Now… As a person who spoke 7 languages at one point, and who taught herself 4 of them on her own, I can’t say this is realistic. Yes, I did learn a lot of my languages as a kid from watching TV and listening, BUT. That’s listening. Not reading. Languages are spelled in very different ways. One of the languages that Aleja “learned purely from stories” – French – I don’t believe it can even be learned without a pronunciation guide (it’s confusing enough WITH one…) Neither can English, really – if you’re from a Spanish speaking country (which Aleja is.) The letters are read completely differently, and English has a lot of odd, inconsistent spellings that were adopted from quite a few different languages. If Aleja just read stories without any textbooks, she would have ridiculously mispronounced both English and French (actually, I learned a lot of English purely by reading too – but even as an intermediate student with prior instruction about how to pronounce words, I still messed up with a few I’d never heard before and was told years later.) It’s doubtful whether she’d even be able to pick up these languages spoken by other people, much less pronounce things herself. There is a reason why listening is an important part of language learning – perhaps the most important part. You CAN learn a language purely by listening and then teach yourself to read and write it. I’m not sure it can be done the other way around.

Anyway, sorry about the language nerd rant!!

So let’s just say this part in the story was pure magic as well, but since it’s a wonderful story aside from this, I think we can really overlook this detail. As a bit of a language nerd though, I couldn’t help wanting to point this out. Maybe in the upcoming sequels some magical ‘predestined’ explanation will come up for this seemingly impossible ability of Aleja’s – I hope it will!


I really hope this series continues! I would love to see how Aleja’s adventures go on, and whether she decides to stay on the ship (I’m sure she will though! But I hope she gets to see her family too.) I feel like this was just the first chapter in many, many adventures, and I think it could become a great series for girls to read! (Or boys, who believe their sisters and best friends are awesome enough to be reading about.)

Get ready to embark on a colorful adventure along with the crew of The Ship of Shadows: Click To Tweet

I thank the author and The Write Reads tours for giving me a free copy in exchange to an honest review. This has not affected my opinion.

The SHIP of SHADOWS tour banner

Have you recently read any great series that empower girls?
Do you enjoy middle grade adventure books and can you recommend me any?

The Ship of Shadows by Maria Kuzniar

Check out on Goodreads