Author: Rebecca Ross
Series: Elements of Cadence, 1
Age Category: New Adult/Adult
Publisher: Avon and Harper Voyager
Publish Date: February 15, 2022
Print Length: 480
House of Earth and Blood meets The Witch’s Heart in Rebecca Ross’s brilliant first adult fantasy, set on the magical isle of Cadence where two childhood enemies must team up to discover why girls are going missing from their clan.
Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls.
As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.
With unforgettable characters, a fast-paced plot, and compelling world building, A River Enchanted is a stirring story of duty, love, and the power of true partnership, and marks Rebecca Ross’s brilliant entry on the adult fantasy stage.
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
A RIVER ENCHANTED is an atmospheric tale of community, truth, and magic. Set in a land reminiscent of Scotland, Jack returns to Cadence at the behest of his Laird. It doesn’t take long before he realizes a more sinister reason lies beneath his summoning. Jack teams up with Adaira, heiress of the east, to uncover the mysterious disappearance of young girls. Their quest leads them down a road of buried truths, which could change island politics, for better or for worse.
The atmosphere and writing style are reminiscent of HALF SICK OF SHADOWS— ethereal, lyrical, almost like you’re holding your breath waiting for a pin to drop. There were many times I felt at peace reading about the land, the magic system, and trusting in the spirits.
Both Adaira and Jack are strong characters, but I felt Adaira’s development a bit more established than Jack’s. Adaira is adept at both the physical (fighting) and mental (politics) exercises expected of an heiress. She exudes confidence, competence, and independence. Jack begins as disgrunted to return to Cadence because the east never fully accepted him owing to the fact no one knew who his father was. However, once he finds his purpose as Bard of the east, he has a change of heart, which I found a bit abrupt given the slower pace of the story.
Though Jack and, to a lesser extent, Adaira, are the main characters, I was most drawn to Sidra. Her specialty is plants and healing and she possess a sense of calm confidence, soothing those around her. Her faith in the spirits is admirable and I appreciated her inner struggle and growth when traumatic events shake that devotion. However, I think the emotional evolution of her husband, Torin, is the most impressive. Torin is a man of action, always on the move and reticent to show any weakness save for his daughter, Maisie. But as the mystery unfolds must face his fears buried deep within.
The most intriguing piece of this story is the magic system. In the east, use of magic slowly drains the user’s life, but the land is plentiful and mostly balanced. In the west, people can use magic with no consequence, but the land is bleak and weakly supports their community. Another interesting magic component is that the wind carries gossip and stories. So to ensure privacy, any discussion that seeks to maintain secrecy occurs behind closed doors. The winds also see most happenings and, as such, are crucial to unraveling the mystery of the girls’ disappearances. But to speak with them requires Jack’s musical talent and not all of the winds want to be summoned.
Lastly, the motivation behind stealing little girls from the east completely stumped me. As the story progressed, I had a theory, but the ending proved me wrong. However, I think there is more to the story than the big reveal lets on. Obviously I’ll just have to read more about it in the next book.
As the story progresses, the characters wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, what it means to love, and finding and exploring their place or role in the community. A RIVER ENCHANTED is a perfect read for those who want to immerse themselves in a folklore lullaby of enchantment.
Content warnings: kidnapping, assault, blood
Reading format: Kindle e-book