Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books
Date of publication: October 31st, 2023
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Historical, Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult Fantasy, Adventure, Historical Fantasy
Series: Secrets of the Nile
What the River Knows—Book 1
The Mummy meets Death on the Nile in this lush, immersive historical fantasy set in Egypt filled with adventure, a rivals-to-lovers romance, and a dangerous race.
Bolivian-Argentinian Inez Olivera belongs to the glittering upper society of nineteenth century Buenos Aires, and like the rest of the world, the town is steeped in old world magic that’s been largely left behind or forgotten. Inez has everything a girl might want, except for the one thing she yearns the most: her globetrotting parents—who frequently leave her behind.
When she receives word of their tragic deaths, Inez inherits their massive fortune and a mysterious guardian, an archeologist in partnership with his Egyptian brother-in-law. Yearning for answers, Inez sails to Cairo, bringing her sketch pads and an ancient golden ring her father sent to her for safekeeping before he died. But upon her arrival, the old world magic tethered to the ring pulls her down a path where she soon discovers there’s more to her parent’s disappearance than what her guardian led her to believe.
With her guardian’s infuriatingly handsome assistant thwarting her at every turn, Inez must rely on ancient magic to uncover the truth about her parent’s disappearance—or risk becoming a pawn in a larger game that will kill her.
A letter changed my life.What the River Knows by Isabel Ibanez
Important things you need to know about the book:
Pace: What the River Knows was medium-paced. For the most part, it suited the book. But there were parts, mainly towards the end of the book, where I felt the pacing dragged out some scenes.
Trigger/Content Warning: What the River Knows does have trigger and content warnings. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book. They are:
- Death (moderate to graphic, on and off page)
- Death of a parent (minor to moderate, off-page)
- Murder (moderate to graphic, on and off page)
- Grief (moderate to graphic, on page)
- Gun Violence (graphic, on page)
- Colonisation (moderate, off and on page)
- Violence (on page, graphic)
- Blood (on page, graphic)
- Kidnapping (minor, off page)
- Abandonment (graphic, on and off page)
- Cultural Appropriation (graphic, on and off page)
- Injury (moderate, on and off page)
- Alcohol (moderate, on page)
- Alcoholism (minor, on page)
- Confinement (minor, on page)
- Gaslighting (moderate, on page)
- Cheating (minor, off page)
- Military Violence (minor, off page)
Sexual Content: There are no sex scenes in What the River Knows. But there are kissing scenes, and those kisses get a little passionate.
Language: There is no swearing in What the River Knows. There is language that people might consider offensive but is era-appropriate.
Setting: What the River Knows takes place entirely in Egypt. The prologue takes place in Argentina.
Tropes: Orphan, Enemies to Lovers, Love/Hate Relationship, Ancient Secrets, Babysitting, Magic, Secrets, Slow Burn Romance, Powerful Artifacts, Forced Proximity
Age Range: I recommend What the River Knows to anyone over 16.
Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):
Inez Olivera has everything she wants in nineteenth-century Argentina except the attention of her Egypt-obsessed parents. Inez is devastated when she receives a letter informing her of her parents’ deaths. Wanting answers, Inez boards a ship to Egypt. But what she finds there doesn’t answer her questions. She finds an uncle who is closed off and angry. His associate/bodyguard, a handsome British man, keeps trying to send her home. But, after finding evidence that suggests her parents’ deaths were not the tragic accident that she had been told, Inez is determined to stay and find out what happened to them. Can Inez find out the truth? Or is everything that she had been told a lie?
Inez Olivera: I liked Inez. She was spunky, didn’t take crap from anyone, was inventive with how to get her way (i.e., staying in Egypt), and was determined to investigate her parents deaths. There were times that I feared for her life in the book (the one scene when she fell into the Nile had me on edge). I liked that she had layers to her, and the more time I spent with her in the book, the more layers were revealed.
Whitford Hayes: I wasn’t sure what to think of him when the book began. But, as the book continued and his backstory was explained, I started to like him. The author did something different with him; she held much of his background until the last minute. He was indeed an enigma.
What the River Knows is a long book. It took me three days to finish. But in those three days, I relished what was written. I was immersed in the storyline and connected with the characters. And yes, like other reviewers, I was very much surprised by the ending and the epilogue. But even before that, the surprises that the author had up her sleeve were almost never-ending.
What the River Knows is a dual-POV book. The story is told mainly from Inez’s POV, but Whit gets his chapters in occasionally. Whit’s chapters explain some mystery that swirls around Inez’s parents, her uncle, and other plotlines. But, what his chapters do not do is verify his feelings for Inez.
I have read very few books centered almost entirely on Egyptian pharaohs and mythology. I enjoyed the mystery of Cleopatra’s tomb. I didn’t enjoy what was happening while Inez, Whit, and the rest of their group were looking for it. I understand why the author did it, but I still wasn’t a fan.
What the River Knows has a few plot twists that will surprise you. I did see the first one coming (sorry to the author). It was set up perfectly so that I would not miss it. This is the catalyst for everything that happens after the twist happens. The author was sneaky and added two plot twists at the very end of the book. I saw neither of those plot twists coming. So, saying I was surprised is an understatement. I was more surprised at the twist in the epilogue than I was at the one at the very end of the book.
The romance angle of the book was slow. It was so slow that I forgot it was even there until Inez was on the ship with Whit. While I had no question of Inez’s feelings towards Whit (ranging from irritation to love), I did question Whit’s. That’s all I am going to say about that.
The fantasy angle of the book was well written. But, like the romance, it was barely there until the middle of the book. I liked how the author wrote about the magic, though. It was exciting and is something that I hope the author expands on in the next book.
As I mentioned multiple times, the end of What the River Knows was a huge surprise. There was so much crammed into it that it did take me a minute to process. But the cliffhanger ending (which annoyed me) and the two twists had me up in arms (see above). It was very sneaky of the author to do that. It was all I thought about for a while after I stopped reading the book.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Isabel Ibanez for allowing me to read and review this ARC of What the River Knows. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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