book reviews / fantasy / humor

Book Review: River Secrets


Shannon Hale

YA Fantasy


Top 3 reasons to read this book:

  1. Razo
  2. Razo
  3. Razo

The plot isn’t as tight as in the first two books of this series, nor is the use of theme as poignant. But I don’t care, because Razo is a fantastic protagonist.

I love being in his head. He is wildly entertaining, loyal, and vulnerable in a way that just makes you want to hug him, though it would probably insult his manhood.

If there’s a single defining characteristic about Razo, it’s his hair. Razo is small, and thinks of himself as small in ability and importance, too. So he’s always spiking up his hair to try to seem taller. So he’s unruly, and a bit of a poser, and mussed-up like someone’s kid brother.

Here’s a sample of Razo’s personality, upon walking into the kitchen of a palace in an enemy country:

“You’re a Bayern,” a freckled serving girl gaped.

 “I am?” Razo took the metal spoon from her hand and looked at himself in its silvery bowl. “Nah, I couldn’t be. Bayern aren’t this good-looking.”

This is Razo: he’s friendly, he’s outgoing, and he slips under your radar. And he consistently thinks about food.

Oh yeah, there’s a plot, too.

Image courtesy of Keattikorn at

Image courtesy of Keattikorn at

The war with Tira is officially over, but politics are still unsettled. Bayern sends a diplomatic party to Tira, including Enna, Finn, Talone, and other beloved characters from Books 1 and 2 of Shannon Hale’s series.

We also meet the Lady Dasha, a wily and bright Tiran girl who may be their great ally. Or their biggest foe. If only Razo could figure her out. Or ask her out.

But now dead bodies are turning up again, and it’s up to Razo to find the culprit before it leads to war.

If only he had the ability to speak to wind, like his friend Ani (Isi). Or the power of fire-speaking, like Enna. Or was a great swordsman, like Finn. But the appeal of Razo is that he is such a spunky puppy of underdog. Maybe he can barely lift a sword, but he has a way of getting past people’s defenses with his kindness and adaptability. It’s likeable, friendly, harmless-seeming Razo who befriends Tirans and learns to appreciate their culture. And his powers of observation, wit, and loyalty may prove just as important in this conflict as any magical ability.

I give this book 4.25 out of 5 pastries (in honor of the pastries Razo filches from the kitchen throughout the book).

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