Sunday, July 12, 2009

Book Review - Shannon Hale's River Secrets

River Secrets by Shannon Hale
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: September 2006
Format: Paperback, 290 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

River Secrets
is the third book in Shannon Hale's popular Bayern series. If Goose Girl was about discovering your hidden power, and Enna Burning was about learning to control your power, then River Secrets is more an acceptance and dealing with the consequences of your power. The war between Tira and Bayern is at an end and a shaky alliance exists between the two countries. In order to forge a lasting peace Bayern sends an ambassador to Tira to sway the assembly's vote for peace instead of resuming the war. Among Bayern's Own chosen to escort the ambassador is Razo. Razo is so alive and fully formed the little runt of a forest boy jumps off the page and into your heart. Unlike the two previous books we are following someone with no magical powers and who does not think very highly of himself, despite all the things he's good at which he is blind to. River Secrets is also unique because unlike the first two books that were almost purely a journey of the central character, here we have a journey wrapped around a tangled web of a mystery.

Upon the Bayerns arrival in Tira, Razo discovers a burned body, the first of many. Trying to find out who the burner is and why they are burning is the mystery Hale presents us with. We are offered many likely suspects, from the cute red-headed ambassador's daughter Dasha, to the more nefarious of Tiran's, even to Bayern's own Enna. Talone, the Bayern's head of security assigns Razo to route out the pyro, because even if Razo hasn't noticed, he happens to be a very good subconscious observer, and therefore the perfect spy. Razo eventually saves the day, and not just by uncovering the burning consipicy, but just by being his wonderful food loving, life loving self and showing the Tiran's that the Bayern aren't all bad baby eaters, some are cute spiky haired forest boys who used to herd sheep. Also Enna learns that though her power is destructive by nature, her own nature can help to control it and heal the wounds she inflicted on others.

Like Enna Burning, the first time I read this book I did not like it as much as I did Goose Girl, but again I have surprised myself with loving it the second time around. Razo is so wonderfully lovable and is able to make the best of a bad situation, plus as a personal prejudice, he used to take care of the sheep, how awesome is that!?! Also the lush and very Venetian Tiran capital of Ingridan is such an interesting city of white buildings and tile work, you get lost in the lush descriptive city with its oppressive heat. But what I find draws me to this book most is the mystery. Readers love a mystery, it propels us to finish, reading late into the night, way past the time we should have turned out the light. While in Goose Girl we wait with baited breath to see how Isi will get what is rightfully hers and with Enna we hope she survives but with River Secrets, we have to know the hidden depths the book contains. Who is burning? Why? Will Razo stop them in time? Will he ever be the one to get the girl? It's a page turner, no doubt!


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