What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 Book Review: What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

Buy What the River Knows HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Isabel Ibañez is the author of Together We Burn, Written in Starlight, and Woven in Moonlight. She was born in Boca Raton, Florida, and is the proud daughter of two Bolivian immigrants. A true word nerd, she received her degree in creative writing and has been a Pitch Wars mentor for three years. Isabel is an avid movie goer and loves hosting family and friends around the dinner table. She currently lives in Winter Park, Florida, with her husband, their adorable dog, and a serious collection of books. Say hi on social media at @IsabelWriter09.

FORMAT/INFO: What the River Knows will be published by Hodderscape on 14th November 2023. It will be available in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Bolivian Argentinian Inez Olivera lives with her aunt and cousins in Buenos Aerian high society. She sees her parents for half the year, and the other half they spend in Egypt. She yearns for time with them, and when our story starts, she hears of their tragic deaths and becomes her uncle’s ward. The last object she received from her father in the mail drags her down a twisty and dangerous adventure and into the company of a British man who she finds equally stubborn and appealing.

This is a historical fantasy romance that is low on the historical fantasy and heavy on the romance. I loved the romantic elements, there’s all the juicy enemies-to-lovers scenes, and I couldn’t help but read them eagerly. I have a certain weakness for proximity when it is forbidden and forced in different ways, and the slow-burn it adds to the story here is pure deliciousness. 
Another enjoyable aspect was the immersive depiction of the Egyptian setting. I was enthralled by the portrayal of 19th century Egypt, from the diverse melting pot of Cairo to the old world of the pyramids. The author does not shy away from depicting the selfishness of the colonisers at this time in history, as well as in her strong statements about their attitudes toward the colony’s national history and heritage. Add to it the yet-unexplained soft magic system that ties magical powers to these historical artifacts, and a mystery involve grave robberies, and this makes for an enchanting page-turner in many ways. The descriptions are lush and vivid and it is clear that they come from a place of love for the culture.
As for the protagonist herself, she is strangely endearing in certain scenes, yet infuriating with how repetitive her inner monologue is. Subtlety is near-absent as far as her thinking of her loss is concerned, and certain phrases make their way into the narration over and over again. But what I did enjoy were those little moments where she had the audacity to take matters into her own hands and commits various acts of defiance, both big and small. The issue, however, was with her being trusting despite all her experiences, and easily swayed by emotion, given the dangerous situation she was aware of being in.

CONCLUSION: What the River Knows is an enjoyable enough historical fantasy romance, but with a few caveats. While certain parts of the protagonist’s portrayal didn’t work for me, others did, and given the cliffhanger it ends on, and the given promise of more complications in the romance, I am eager to pick up the sequel when it is ready.

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