Emily Rodda’s writings have been around for a long time. Not only has she been writing for children and young adults for ages (since the 1980s), but she makes appearances at Writers’ Festivals and the Children’s Literature Festival. Rodda has been awarded Winner of the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year (Younger Readers) Award five times too, just in case you’re wondering!
Now this is a very different kind of spot for me because the books are written for a much younger audience, but I find Emily Rodda amazing! Not only does she write creatively, but she reinvents elements of the expected hero’s journey too (and I should know as I did a thesis on this series I am about to review).
“Deltora Quest” (2000) series one will be my focus, but it actually runs on into three. The plotline for this eight book series is about a young man looking not just for the pieces of a magical Belt to save the kingdom, but the king who can wear it so that this king can defeat the evil Shadow Lord that has taken over the entire land of Deltora.
The best thing about this series is the intertextuality that litters it (differing formats, puzzles and texts within texts) and challenges to the norm of the hero quest. This series is inventive and engaging to younger readers, involving them in the puzzles the hero Lief has to overcome (including a spot the difference).
I do not recommend this series for older readers as they may become bored of the series and find it banal. It could bother readers too if they think Lief isn’t much of a hero, as his friends Jasmine and Barda, tend to be involved in as much of the challenges as the hero is himself. But I also think there is a kind of beauty to this shift as it highlights particular characters and suggests that heroes aren’t all they are cracked up to be.
There’s a reason this series won both the KOALA award (NSW children's choice) and the Aurealis Awards: Peter McNamara Convenors' Award-Australian Speculative Fiction in 2002. And while Rodda herself has written at least two more series since this one (“Rondo” and “The Three Doors”), this is the first series of hers I fell in love with and even chose to closely study.
So think about this series for your children or even for yourself for a look into a different world that reflects the inner child. I would even recommend the anime series that took the integrity of the book series and remade it the way the author saw it in her head too. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see Jasmine with green hair!