What the River Knows is a historical fantasy novel set in late 1800’s Egypt. When Bolivian-Argentinian Inez Olivera’s parents die during an adventure-gone-wrong in their beloved Egypt, Inez defies her new guardian, her uncle’s, order and arrives in Egypt. She won’t rest until she discovers what happened to her parents and learns how a gold ring with old-world magic, which her father mailed her before he died, fits into the narrative. Soon, she finds herself on a dangerous yet mysterious archaeological adventure with her uncle, his young assistant named Whit, and their crew.
What the River Knows is full of adventure and Egyptian history. I definitely has The Mummy but make it YA vibes (there aren’t any undead mummies, however). My favorite part of this book is how you become so immersed in the setting. Ibañez definitely did her research! I loved reading about the politics of the time period, as well as the ancient history of Egypt, which plays a large role in the story. Ibanez touches on British colonialism and the importance of history and not stealing artifacts.
The actual fantasy aspect of this book is fairly minimal, as magic only clings to old objects in this version of history. However, I found it works well because the magic didn’t overpower the importance of the setting and the archaeology.
I also enjoyed the romance. Inez and Whit are both headstrong characters, and it was fun to read about their tension and growing forbidden relationship. I especially appreciate Inez’ resolve, especially in a time period where women had no agency over their own lives, and she was unfortunately naive in a lot of situations.
My biggest critique is that I could tell the story is setting up for a sequel. The middle drags a little bit, especially the mystery. A lot of questions and mysteries were piled up on top of each other, and we didn’t get any answers until about 75% of the way into the story. I think having a couple of reveals earlier would’ve helped propel the plot along.
Overall, I loved the adventure, history, and romance in this book. If you’re looking for a fun YA fantasy, then look out for What the River Knows, pub date November 14, 2023!
Thanks so much to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for sending me an ARC for review!