By Author / Illustrator
Penguin Random House Children's UK
Paperback / softback
PREPARE FOR PUZZLES, PERIL, AND PLENTY OF CAKE IN THE SECOND THRILLING ADVENTURE FOR ALEJA AND THE CREW OF THE LEGENDARY SHIP OF SHADOWS
Aleja and her fellow pirates are eager to embark on a new adventure to find the second piece of the missing magical map. But they soon find themselves panicking, bewildered by a series of confusing clues. And time is running out - fast. When she starts experiencing strange visions, Aleja realizes that someone is trying to tell her something. But can this new knowledge be trusted? And what will it cost her to find out? With the crew's loyalties tested and more secrets to unlock than ever, Aleja must find a way to beat the clock and prove herself truly worthy of her place on the ship's crew . . .
The sequel to last year's year excellent debut, A Ship of Star, Secrets of the Stars is a gripping adventure over the high seas featuring an all-female crew of pirates. Maria Kuzniar brings the reader back to Aleja's story right away and reintroduces the crew. Reading the first book is helpful but not essential.
The Secrets of the Stars finds our crew racing around the world trying to find the missing piece of a magical map. However, the clues become increasingly complex and confusing. The ticking clock doesn't help and neither do the strange visions Aleja finds herself experiencing. Adventuring through storms, meeting beasts and experiencing amazing cities around the world, this sequel is a superb follow up. Kuzniar writes using vivid description and allowed the reader to travel on board The Ship of Shadows with Aleja, Velka, Aada and the rest of the crew.
I loved experiencing the perilous journey in a year with no travel and opportunities to see the wider world. The crew work hard to solve the puzzles and, as the reader, it is fun to work through and try to figure out what will happen next. This book also explores the incredible ship some more and we learn more about the mysteries held within the boat alongside Aleja.
Pitched at the middle grade age group, 8-12, this book would also be enjoyed by older children and adults alike. With an all-female pirate crew, I know that both girls and boys will find something they enjoy reading about in this series. The fast paced plot and interesting characters, along with excellent writing, will keep even the most reluctant reader engaged. And apparently there is a book 3 on its way, which is great news for fans of Aleja and The Ship of Shadows.
336 pages / Reviewed by Bryony Davies, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 9+
The Ship of Shadows sets sail on another fantastic adventure in Secrets of the Stars! Aleja and her pirate crewmates are searching for the second part of a magical map hidden by legendary explorer Thomas James. Their search takes them from Croatia to China as they attempt to outwit their sworn enemy Francois Levasseur and locate the map before he does. Along the way they must overcome many obstacles, including tigers and an attack from an army of the undead, and must use their talents and bravery to reach their goal.
This sequel is, if anything, even better than the first book. The characters are wonderfully drawn and their personalities sing from the page. A pirate ship crewed entirely by women and girls is a great idea; each crew member has their own particular skill and all must work together under the leadership of the indomitable Captain Elizabeth Quint to successfully fulfil their quest.
Frances and Aleja's friendship is a key theme in the book, and when this is tested the reader really feels Aleja's sadness and sense of isolation. I love the fierce warrior, Malika, and we learn a little more of her background in this book. I feel sure that we will learn more about her and the other pirates in the books yet to come.
The author describes the exotic places Aleja visits throughout the story so beautifully, the reader is given a perfect insight into the sights and smells of the towns and markets, and we can perfectly understand it when Aleja says, "I feel like I’m creating my own map of the world in my head, and each city I travel to fills it in a bit more". We travel with the crew by land, sea and air and live through their adventures with them. The attack by the army of the undead - the ro-langs - is deliciously creepy and just scary enough for the younger reader. And through it all we have the marvellous Ship of Shadows with its magical rooms - and one of the best libraries I have ever read about!
This is a lovely adventure story with a strong theme of friendship and courage. The girls are all strong in their own right, but together they form a formidable team. They deal with every situation bravely and support each other through difficult times, such as the loss of a crew member. This incident is dealt with very sympathetically by the author. Aleja is the main character in the book. She still has much to learn about life as a pirate, but she is brave and loyal to her friends. Her intelligence and ingenuity shine though as she uncovers the answers to the puzzles which lead the crew to their goal.
All in all, another amazing novel from Ms Kuzniar. I can't wait to find out where the Ship of Shadows - and its crew of feisty girls - sails to next!
336 pages / Reviewed by Beverley Somerset, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 9+