Deltora Quest by Emily Rodda, Scholatic Books, Australia.
This volume is actually eight books, which comprise the Deltora Quest. Three companions, a blacksmith’s son, a wild woman of the forest and a king’s guard, are given the task of restoring the belt of Deltora, which when worn by the rightful heir of the kingdom will give the power to conquer the Shadow Lord. There are seven gems, and the book titles give the quest of each book: The Forests of Silence, The Lake of Tears, City of the Rats, Shifting Sands, Dread Mountain, The Maze of the Beast, The Valley of the Lost and Return to Del. This book has many incredible adventures, and likable characters. I really loved it. In fact, I would compare it favorably to the “Wizard of Oz” series. In this book, each chapter includes a journey and a goal. It seems the odds are insurmountable; but somehow. The ending of this series is nothing like I suspected. Throughout the book they are weary of a spy amongst the group. (Not our loyal three, but among those they befriend along the way.)
My only regret with these books is that they had to end. However, I now see there are a couple of subsequent series.