What the River Knows

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What the River Knows
Author(s)
Age Range
13+
Release Date
October 31, 2023
ISBN
978-1250803375
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The Mummy meets Death on the Nile in What the River Knows, Isabel Ibañez's lush, immersive historical fantasy set in Egypt and 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 a 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.

What the River Knows is the first book in the thrilling Secrets of the Nile duology. 

Editor reviews

2 reviews
overall engaging YA historical fantasy/mystery
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS is a unique YA historical mystery/fantasy that takes the reader to 1884 Egypt. Inez lives in Buenos Aires with her aunt and two cousins, but she dreams of traveling to Egypt, where her parents spend half the year. Her parents are currently working with her uncle to search for Cleopatra's tomb, something Inez is incredibly interested in, having grown up learning all about Egypt and Egyptian history.

However, something has gone wrong, and her parents are missing presumed dead. With her new inheritance, Inez does what she has desperately wanted - heads to Egypt. There, things are not quite what she expects, especially with her uncle and his assistant, Whit, trying to rush her back to Buenos Aires. Determined and endlessly curious, Inez will have her adventure.

What I loved: This was a well-researched story with plenty of history and mythology that made for a unique read. Egyptian history is described for the reader as relevant while Inez experiences and considers the things she encounters and what her parents were working on. There is also a history of magic that was fascinating, and this underlies the story in a really compelling way. It was woven throughout with a feeling of magical realism.

Inez is a really compelling character. She is somewhat naïve at the start, having been sheltered by her family and her prospects of the time period. Her determination and clever/curious nature will carry her to new discoveries and open her eyes in new ways. She is learning fast, and she made for quite the guide on her adventure. Her growth during the story felt like a coming of age in some ways as she begins to really take charge of her life and her future.

The story and mysteries really take off and felt refreshingly new. Inez is living in a time of ancient Egyptian excavations and discoveries, and this lends itself to the magic and intrigue of it all. There were some important nods to the treatment of artifacts and the ways that different governments/foreign entities have treated the findings, and this was a really significant discussion/inclusion. Other themes around archaeology were also really thought-provoking with implications for the items we see in museums.

What left me wanting more: As a small thing, it did take me a while to get into the story, with the beginning feeling like a lot of setbacks and slower paced plot. However, the second half of the story moved quite a bit faster as things begin to happen and the plot thickens. We also get some of Whit's perspective, and I had some mixed feelings about the relationship developing between him and Inez. I am not sure if more understanding of his perspective or something would have helped for me to buy into it more.

Final verdict: WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS is an overall unique and compelling YA historical mystery/fantasy that takes the reader for quite the ride! Be prepared to eagerly await the next installment!
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Travel to Egypt with me
Overall rating
 
4.7
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What I liked:
What the River Knows is a historical young adult fantasy novel set in Cairo and the hunt for Cleopatra's tomb. The magical realism elements are what hooked me and kept me reading. Inzez is a strong character, who detests being left behind, is fraught with worry over her parent's disappearance and possible death, and she very reckless at times. The budding romance between her and Whit was sweet and unexpected but worth reading about. I felt like I was on a trip and seeing things, I knew I would never see in my lifetime. The historical aspects and the hunt for Cleoptra's tomb created an excellent setting for a young adult historical fantasy novel.
Final Verdict:
What the River Knows has moments of romance but twists that involve death, betrayal, and mortal peril for our characters. I was on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out how Inez would get herself out of this predicament. The ending leaves us wanting more, and I can't wait for the sequel.
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User reviews

1 review
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0(1)
Characters
 
4.0(1)
Writing Style
 
5.0(1)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A(0)
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What the River Knows
(Updated: November 24, 2023)
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What the River Knows was a beautiful, well-written historical fantasy, and I found it to be a highly engaging read. I liked that it was a story I could check in and out of as needed without feeling the need to recap every time I returned.

What initially drew me to the book (aside from the gorgeous cover & title) was the fact that in what is quickly coming to feel like an oversaturated market, Ibañez approached the fantasy genre with an unlikely angle which kept it really fresh in its feel. The descriptions were immaculate and alluring, the characterizations were layered and full of heart, and the banter was simple & witty in a way that I hadn't realized I was missing till I got to observe Inez and Whit.

Some of the narrative choices did come off a bit disjointed, like much of the Cleopatra plot, but nothing drastic enough to pull from my overall enjoyment.
There were also a lot more romantic-action-drama moments than I was expecting coming into this book; it's not something I was prepared for coming into a historical fantasy, but I didn't necessarily dislike it.

Also, I was ABSOLUTELY NOT PREPARED for the cliffhanger ending. I fully thought this was a standalone until I got to the end, was promptly & rudely shocked, and am eagerly anticipating a follow-up ASAP thankyouverymuch.
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