I first picked up a Deltora Quest book at my school library (which I’m sure was the same for many other Australian kids). The series’ author, Emily Rodda, is a prolific Australian writer, who published her first book in the 1980s.
It remains one of my favourite fantasy series that I read growing up. The eight books tell a story set in the mythical land of Deltora, where the evil Shadow Lord reigns. The main character, Lief, takes on the quest of his father, to restore the seven gems to the Belt of Deltora, which has the power to return the Shadow Lord to the Shadowlands. He is helped by two other characters, Barda and Jasmine, as they face many challenges and threats on their quest.
There were so many things I loved about reading these books!
- The world building. Considering the books weren’t that long, or overly complicated (say late middle-grade fiction), I really felt immersed in the medieval-style world of Deltora. I believed in it.
- The riddles. Throughout many of the challenges the characters’ face, riddles are often featured that are illustrated in the book, giving the reader a chance to solve them first. The nerd in me loved this, and it added a level of interactivity to the series.
- The characters (and their banter). There was a depth to the relationships between the three main characters, Lief, Barda and Jasmine. They weren’t friends who set off on this quest together – they were strangers thrown together because of circumstances, who felt like they had to be there, even if they didn’t like each other at the start. This was a whole lot more interesting than if they were best buddies from the beginning.
- The hint of romance. Not too much, but just enough between Lief and Jasmine to keep things interesting for a young girl reading it.
- The pace. Rodda keeps a cracking pace, and the books definitely have that un-put-downable magic, with plenty of cliffhangers.
When reading about this series online I saw a review from a woman who said the books would appeal mostly to boys. I have to disagree wholeheartedly here – not once while being engrossed in these books did it occur to me that these were books better suited to boys, or that it should matter that the main character was a boy. I love fantasy and adventure, period, and this series had plenty of that.
After the initial 8-book series, Rodda published another two series under the Deltora Quest umbrella, following the same characters on different quests after the adventures of the first series. I recommend these as well, though I find there’s always a magic to the first series, or first book in a series or trilogy, that is hard to replicate.