Set in the frozen north in Nordlor, known as the village of one thousand ships as it is built from shipwrecks, this is a magical adventure with a brave and plucky heroine at its heart. When a fortune teller’s prediction turns out to be wrong – the most successful sea-captain in Nordlor’s promised son is in fact a seventh girl – the child, Oona, is henceforward largely ignored by her parents and left to fend for herself. But Oona is a clever child with a passion for the sea and a love of learning. She teaches herself to read by hiding in the school roof listening to the boys’ lessons every morning. And when her mother takes her older sisters down South to be married off to rich princes Oona decides to stow away on her father’s ship, The Plucky Leopard instead.
At first the crew are horrified to find an unlucky girl on board but Oona soon proves her worth by rescuing not only the cook but also the navigator and so takes her place as one of the crew and is finally accepted by her father. Her wish to see the mythical Nardoo, a large whale-like creature that can swim and fly in the sky is granted but as in all the best stories nothing quite goes to plan and disaster befalls the ship. It is up to Oona to get them out of trouble.
Although a little uneven in places this is a satisfying story where the kind-hearted are rewarded and the mean spirited get their come-uppance. There are some great characters too including Barnacle the fiddle-playing ginger sea cat who is on his ninth life and the gentle navigator and his wife who long for a child of their own.
The lyrical text reads like a fable and follows the format of a traditional tale. A quieter, gentler story for the discerning child.