I have just recently read and enjoyed the first two books of the Star of Deltora series, the latest from prolific Australian author Emily Rodda (author of the Deltora Quest series and the more recent Three Doors series) and I encourage anyone who wants to go adventuring with a brave clever heroine to try the books for themselves! Long ago, a Deltora trader named Roslyn found such fame that her name became a title, and a line of women known as Trader Roslyn have followed in her path, sailing the nine seas. Now the current Trader Roslyn is no longer young, and is looking for an apprentice....
In the first book, Shadows of the Master, we are introduced to Britta, who is determined to win the competition to be that person. She passes the initial round of tests, and after a bit of misadventure, becomes one of the four finalists. In the second book, Two Moons, the finalists all sail on a trading voyage aboard the Trader Roslyn's famous ship, the Star of Delotra. The ship will visit three islands, and each candidate will have a chance to make a trade. The one who ends up having made the best trades at the end of the third visit will be the victor.
Bretta is determined to win. Trading is in her blood; her father was famous for it. But her father is also infamous. He found and took control (or was controlled by) an ancient relic that brought death to his last crew and the Hungry Island back to life. And now his shadows are seeking out Britta....She must keep her identity a secret, or risk being thrown out of contention before the competition ends. She knows she's not like her father....but secrets and magic seem to be building all around her whether she wants them to or not. And someone seems determined to get her out of the way; not quite killing her, but coming close.
The Star of Delotra is sailing on a big ocean, filled with lots of magic, not all of it nice, and some of it downright evil. Will Britta's intelligence and sharp trading instincts be enough to see her through her adventures safely? One can assume they will, but I don't have books 3 and 4 on hand. If I did, I'd already have read them at this point. Probably back to back immediately after book 2.
The story reminded me somewhat of Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale (girls being tested and trained), especially the first book, which is mostly about the testing process. The second book takes Britta off to sea, and there the main interest for me was Britta's research in the ship's library, and the thought she put into figuring out her trading strategy. I like to read about people thinking. But if you prefer action, do not be deterred my preference--there are near-death adventures and strange magics and mysteries swirling around, and then there's Britta's rather terrifyingly transformed father on his Hungry Island (one that moves around looking for snacks....)
If you have already read Emily Rodda, you won't be disappointed. And if you haven't, this series is a fine place to start. Give the books to any nine or ten year old who pretended the bed was a boat back when they were littler. They are good ones for the older elementary school kid wanting to read books of more substance; the covers don't look like "kids" books, yet the content is still kid friendly (the one horrible death so far happened way back when).
disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher