Book Review: River Secrets by Shannon Hale
I freaking love this book! (And I have a lot to say about it.)
River Secrets is the third of the Books of Bayern. The first book was The Goose Girl (one of my favorite books of all time!) and the second is Enna Burning. River Secrets follows a character named Razo, who was introduced in The Goose Girl and also played a very significant role in Enna Burning. His story takes him to a new land that had previously declared war on Bayern. He’s chosen to be one of Bayern’s Own soldiers to travel with the ambassador of Bayern to negotiate trade with Tira and hopefully convince the assembly to vote on peace, rather than declaring war a second time. But Razo is very short, very clumsy, and the least physically imposing or competent person to be chosen for such a task. He can’t help but wonder why Talone chose him for such an important mission.
The thing I love so much about this book is just Razo himself. His character is so lovable and understandable, and adorable, and he makes me laugh! Shannon Hale does such a wonderful job at creating a character that is so genuinely himself all of the time. The little nuances she throws in are some of my favorite character descriptions I’ve ever read. I love how she describes how he thinks and how he tries to make himself appear to others and how he notices things that others don’t. He’s just so Razo and I love him.
The plot was very intriguing – of course it was, this is the amazing Shannon Hale’s writing – but honestly, I wouldn’t care if this was just a book that followed Razo around doing absolutely nothing. If he was just clipping his toe nails, I wouldn’t care. He’s that compelling and entertaining to me, and it’s obvious that Shannon is just as endeared to him as I am (well, more probably). I think every author has that character that they just love to pieces no matter what, and the funny thing is is that that character usually sort of creates themself, so it’s hard to take credit for them as an author. In her note at the end of the book, Shannon writes, “Ah, Razo. Never have I had such a character as Razo. Some characters give you a landslide of trouble trying to figure out, some sprout from the ground fully clothed and ready to play. Razo was the later.” She goes on to write that he was never meant to have such a big role in The Goose Girl or Enna Burning, and she certainly never planned to give him his own book, but, “that wily, sneaky kid. He got is own book out of me, the rascal.”
I’m afraid I’m playing this up too much. There are many that may not feel the same was that I do about this book, but this is the second time I’ve read it, so that should say something to how much I enjoyed it. It’s also interesting reading it again from the perspective of a writer, because I too have a Razo – a troublemaker of a character that I just love to death – and I can totally relate to Shannon’s explanation. When I think about my Razo I can’t help but roll my eyes and smile and think, “Oh, you silly idiot! I freaking love you.”
Here are a few of my favorite little character descriptions in River Secrets:
“Raso felt regret creeping into his expression, so he looked for something amusing to distract himself. There appeared to be a small hole in the rug. He stuck in his finger. Now it was a slightly bigger hole.”
“He left off keeping an eye on Enna for the first time in a week to report for sword practice and found himself still holding on to a tangerine peel left over from lunch, just to look at some color.”
“‘Look at you, you seem crushed!’
He did? ‘I’m not.’ That seemed rude. ‘I mean, I’ll miss you.’ What was he saying? ‘But I hope you have a good time.'”
“The problem became harder and crunchier the longer he chewed, and he feared he might crack a tooth on it.”
“Razo stared at the short rope of pearls around her throat, commanding his face to be still, not to show any color, not to betray his utter humiliation with so much as an eyebrow twitch.
‘What’s the matter?’ she asked. ‘You look as though you’re in pain.’
‘Just a strained … toe.'”
“So to disguise the extremely minor tremble in his hands, Razo sauntered in with his hands in his pockets, whistling through the space between his teeth. (He’d always liked that space, believing that it gave him a roguish appeal.)”
I’m sorry, I got carried away, I just had to share some of my favorite parts from Shannon Hale’s marvelous writing. She’s a master and I wish I could write as well as her. She’s able to convey so much with the tiniest description. Anyway, I would recommend River Secrets to anyone who loves down-to-earth characters, magic, or just an adventurous story. (Of course, only after reading the first two books!) I can’t wait to see what Shannon writes next!