Review of “River Secrets” by Shannon Hale

This is book three of the series that begins with The Goose Girl (mostly about Isi, who became Queen of Bayern) and continues with Enna Burning (focusing on Enna, Isi’s friend). In this book, the limelight is on 17-year-old Razo, a friend of Isi’s and Enna’s.

Bayern and the country with which it was formerly at war, Tira, have decided to exchange ambassadors. Razo is picked to go along as part of the guard, called The King’s Own. Razo’s selection is a mystery, because he is clumsy and not known as a warrior, but he is thrilled even as he himself continually wonders why he was included. Enna is also picked to go, because her two gifts – being able to pull heat from the air and turn it to fire, and to hear the voice of the wind – will help the guards determine if there are dangers ahead, and if so, to thwart them.

In Ingridan, the capital of Tira, the Bayern group meets a number of interesting characters, including Lady Dasha, a girl of sixteen who is the daughter of Tira’s ambassador to Bayern. They get to know the Tirans and exchange ideas on the best clothing, food, and even weather – the book offers a nice commentary on how learning about other cultures can help build bonds between them, even though, at first, there is only a thin barrier separating friendship and suspicion.

The Bayern also discover that many Tirans are opposed to peace, and would like nothing more than inciting another war. The King’s Own is determined to stop the warmongers, but the conspirators operate in secret, and it is difficult to distinguish friends from enemies. As tension mounts prior to the Tiran Assembly vote on war or peace, the atmosphere becomes more deadly.

But the poisonous atmosphere allows Razo finally to learn why he was chosen for the mission, and also to discover something about Dasha that makes a difference to all competing parties.

Evaluation: Razo is an appealing character – you can’t help but like someone so bumbling, naïve, and good-natured. He is also a growing boy who loves to eat, and my favorite quote in the book is when he finds a girl who works in the kitchen attractive because “she smelled nice, like salted meat….”

There are a couple of romances that weave their way through the story, including a particularly charming one between two older characters.

This is a good light read, and would offer a satisfying ending to the series, although there is a fourth, Forest Born, that features Razo’s sister Rin.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by Bloomsbury, 2006

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15 Responses to Review of “River Secrets” by Shannon Hale

  1. Trish says:

    I had no idea that this was a series! I haven’t heard of this one but am familiar with Goose Girl and Enna burning. Can you read them as standalone or do they work best together?

    • Jay says:

      It may be harder to understand the last 3 books, especially number 3 (River Secrets) and number 4, Forest Born, without reading the previous books, however you probably could read one as a stand-alone, and learn things as the characters do.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I guess I should try this series, but I’m a bit hesitant because of the fairy tale tie-ins.

    • Jay says:

      Don’t worry about the fairy-tale tie-ins. The books are very individual despite the fairy-tale thing.

  3. zibilee says:

    I just finished The Snow Child, and now I am speculating about reading this series, because I loved the fairy tale elements of that one so much! I love the idea of sharing cultures, even with people who are on guard with each other, and I must mention that I find the cover very striking. I think this is something that I would like to investigate a little further. It might be a great follow up read to look for. Great review today, Jill!

  4. Sandy says:

    The fairy tale element can definitely be charming, and you have made this series sound very charming. I love bumbling, sweet characters that are attracted to women who smell like food! I really need to get my hands on The Snow Child. That one, and about a hundred more you have recommended.

  5. bookingmama says:

    I had absolutely no idea that this was a series.

  6. Series…no, no more series…lol
    Love that cover.

  7. aartichapati says:

    I think the cover on this is lovely!

    I LOVE that the guy described the girl as smelling like “salted meat” and it was a compliment. I don’t think I’d love to be told that to my face, but I TOTALLY get what he means. Though I think I prefer the smell of a barbecue to the smell of cured meat. Still- the man knows what’s important in life.

  8. Beth F says:

    Love that smells like salted meat. LOL. As I said in an earlier comment, this series has been on my list.

  9. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    I’ve been meaning to read them all!

  10. stacybuckeye says:

    The Goose Girl is on my wish list. I should get started on that 🙂

  11. litandlife says:

    Why have I not let you talked me into reading any of Hale’s books yet. They just seem like so much fun to read!

  12. Jenners says:

    Bumbling naive and good-natured? That sounds a bit like me.

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