A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
Published by Harper Voyager
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.
A River Enchanted not so subtly seduced me into its grasp with torturous longing between two rivals solving a mystery and its misty Outlander isle backdrop where Gossip Girl has gone completely medieval. Naturally, this book ripped into me with smoldering prose, tension for days, and Scottish lore entwining its earth elementals with the bard’s songs. It transported me deep into a misty Scottish isle, surrounded by woods and the taste of the sea on the air, where I cozy up with a plaid blanket and a chonky book.
If you’re a fan of Ava Reid’s The Wolf and the Woodsman or Allison’s Saft’s romantic prose, this will satisfy all your reader needs. The world feels in tune with the songs Jack sings and the folkloric beings so like the earth that you could probably pick them out of the earth and all its elements. The prose made me hungry for more. The miserable characters longing over starlight hair and the room between them. The agonizing loss of the lasses stolen from them. The sound Torin makes when he’s lost something dear to him. This world where trees become maidens and stones awaken to a song. Kisses completely destroy me when Rebecca Ross writes them. Rebecca Ross doesn’t just tell me a story, she sinks me into it without me even realizing that I’ve read half the book already.
What stands out about Rebecca Ross, amongst all the Scottish and Celtic-inspired fantasy out there, is that this tests the old-fashioned publications with a fresh voice by omitting gender essentialism and putting importance on consent and communication in relationships. I never once felt pulled down with over-done misogynistic tropes or gendered language. I’m enamored that Adaira is a Laird’s heir, who seemingly courts a himbo bard with a grumpy attitude by knocking on his window like a dashing Scottish rake. And–just in case you were wondering-this would fit into the f/m grumpy meets grumpy trope. This book should be in the hands of anyone looking for books with soft masculinity. There’s just something refreshing the portrayal of masculinity in A River Enchanted that I’m hoping will make this a favorite for readers.
I could read the hate-to-love trope mixed with arranged marriage any day but what made this particularly well done is how soft the romance felt. The author didn’t cheapen the trope by confusing tension with toxic masculinity. The slow burn between Jack and Adaira, Sidra and Torin, gripped me with tension but still made it feel soft and gentle. That’s what especially impressed me about Rebecca Ross.
I feel as if all these characters will stay with me. Jack, Adaira, Torin, Sidra, and Frae all felt picked from fantastical lore but still maintained the type of ripe hurt and horribleness that comes with living in the real world.
A River Enchanted is a fantastic and very sexy adult fantasy debut that surprised, gripped, and ravaged me. I’ll be looking forward to the sequel.
Thank you to Avon/Harper Voyager for the e-arc for review.