I have to admit, of the first three Books of Bayern, River Secrets is not my personal favorite. But really, I think my opinion is tainted, thanks mainly to the fact that I really, really, and I mean really hate this cover. On the one hand I was annoyed because it was impossible to buy this book in paperback in the cover that matched the style of the other two books I already owned in the series, but really, I just want to smack the cover model. He looks like an uppity, obnoxious little brat. And that’s unfortunate, because Razo, the character he’s supposed to portray and the main character in the novel, is a character I actually happen to like a lot. But that kid on the cover… I really do want to slap him upside the head a bit, and I have to admit that that colored my reading of this book. I don’t know why I let little things like that interfere with my reading experience, but I can’t deny that they do. It’s like something in the series’ aura has been kinked because of the cover changes, I don’t know. It’s not feng shui, people.
But shoving all new-age metaphors aside, I think it’s also a fact that I play favorites, and Enna Burning was such a delicious ride for me that it was hard to enjoy switching to a new character.
This review isn’t telling you that it really is a good book on its own, though… which it is. So let’s ignore my weird associations and look at the facts:
1. Shannon Hale knows her world. And she knows her characters. Bayern and its surrounding areas are so real in her head they can’t help but be real in yours, which is awesome in and of itself.
2. We get an awesome new character here in the form of Lady Dasha (she’d be the red-head, above). I adore her. She’s sweet and spunky and a nice addition to an already beloved cast.
3. It’s not like we don’t see the awesome characters we love from the books beforehand, even if it is in a slightly smaller scale here.
4. Shannon Hale does something that I really wish Stephenie Meyer had done in Twilight—proved that you can be resourceful, influential and important even without special powers, even if you’re the “normal human being” surrounded by characters with cool abilities.
Besides, you’ve got to read this to get to the newly-released Forest Born. And I have to admit, even from the one small mention we get of Rin in River Secrets I could already tell that there was something special about her, and that she was someone we’d want to get to know better, so I’m really looking forward to getting that chance!
I give River Secrets a hearty B+. But really… it’s the aura thing getting to me again. You’d probably rate it higher.