Cover Image: What the River Knows

What the River Knows

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

For the archeology girlies who believe artifacts belong in their countries of origin!

I had a lot of fun with this. I liked the characters a lot, they had interesting personalities and dynamics with each other. Also my overall enjoyment steadily increased throughout, culminating in a super fun high-action ending (with a shocking tragedy I did not expect but maybe I should have but it really upped the ante on the whole adventure).

That said, the writing suffered from a few issues that slowed me down/confused me throughout the reading process, which I will now detail (do not read if you’re not interested but these things were just bugging me and I need to get them out for my sake not yours. remember that the star rating above is indeed 4 stars so I clearly did enjoy this book i’m just thinking out loud here let me cook)

- Promise of the Premise: for one, I just wanted more archeology! I thought they’d be searching and finding clues and digging and uncovering but Tio Ricardo & Abdullah had already found Cleopatra’s tomb? Inez just confirmed it for them?
- Mismanagement of Mysteries: the mysteries presented to us at the beginning of the book as central driving questions (the main one being, what really happened to Inez’s parents?) don’t end up being the most important questions and/or culminate in underwhelming answers
- Pacing: the first half of the book was much slower and the second half much faster. I didn’t prefer one half to the other though because the first half set things up too slowly and the second resolved them too quickly. Neither was quite right
- Underwritten Romance: okay our two romantic parties don’t know each other and first and have a lot of mutual distrust but grow to have feelings for one another. sounds good. except. instead of showing a gradual opening up to each other, Whit was just totally hot and cold for no reason, which made Inez’s affection for him right from the get-go a little confusing—Inez being generally more open than Whit made a lot of sense with her personality, but she also was confused about Whit’s  hot-and-cold and THEY JUST MET so what was she even attracted to? Once they got to know each other more, the dynamic made more sense to me and I let it go, but that first half. truly. what.
- That Last Page: WAS SCINTILLATING but I fear it seemed out of character for Whit so I was left more befuddled than excited about the twists and turns of the next book. set the wrong tone for me.

All of that said, I DID STILL HAVE A GOOD TIME THIS IS ALL JUST ON MY MIND RIGHT NOW I”M SORRY. I am looking forward to the sequel which tragically has no release date yet and I’m excited to spend more time with these characters now that they’ve had time to marinate.
Was this review helpful?
I'm not quite sure how Isabel Ibañez has done it, but she has taken one of my least favorite plot devices – withholding information to purposefully keep someone ignorant of a situation – combined it with the chronic folly that is being a teenage girl, and turned it into an addicting tale that you'll want to devour in one sitting.

The story follows Inez, a railroad heiress of Bolivian and Argentinian heritage who has spent her life in Buenos Aires while her parents largely live in Egypt, funding her uncle's excavations. But when she receives an artefact full of magic from her father and then the sudden word of her parents' mysterious deaths, Inez sneaks out, gets on a ship to Cairo, turns up at the hotel her parents lived in, and inserts herself into their world – only to find that her uncle absolutely does not want her there, and there is Lots of Scheming afoot.

And of course, there is Whitford Hayes, a charming, rakish, British gentleman who works for her uncle, who Inez knows she can't trust, but whom she is outrageously attracted to anyway.

Though none of the twists and turns here necessarily came as a surprise to me, Ibañez creates an evocative world of magical realism, and characters that are easy to love – Inez, though young and too trusting, is audacious and amusing, and Whit is very swoony, if a complete mess. 

Set during the archaeological boom in Egypt, full of smooth manipulators, selfish treasure hunters, and greedy museum curators who care more about their illustrious collections than historical preservation, What the River Knows is an intriguing read that seamlessly blends historical fiction with magical realism, adventure, and a strong dose of mystery. Though the book will likely frustrate you to no end as Inez tries to learn the truth about her parents' fate, what her uncle is up to, and who she can trust, it's a hard book to put down. And the epilogue? It'll have you screaming.
Was this review helpful?
DNF @ 34%. I like the direction of this story, but I think it will work better for me on audio. I plan to pick it up again in the future.
Was this review helpful?
A historical fiction set in Egypt that recognizes the problems with Egyptology and other countries not respecting Egyptians or their artifacts! Well done, and a fresh change! A great book club read that can appeal to most, Egypt, mystery, love, family, who needs more?! There had better be a sequel or I just may cry. If you are debating it, definitely give a it try!
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed the Egyptian history! This was my first time reading something from Isabel and I loved it! The morally gray characters made it even better! The imagery was also really well done and I think this was a perfect for a first book in a series. That being said I think it did have a little bit of an issue with the pacing. It was just a tad too slow for my liking. 

Inez was such an interesting character and I thought she was pretty mature for a YA character and I can’t wait to see how her relationship with Whit develops!
Was this review helpful?
I refuse to read this book since I just recently found out this author has racists views/stereotypes against indigenous people in her last book, and this book is probably no different.....
Was this review helpful?
What the River Knows is a historical fantasy adventure with a bit of magic and mystery. This is a genre I had no idea I'd enjoy, and I loved it! For a minute it was giving me Indiana Jones vibes. It does get a bit violent and gruesome by the end, but I can tell you from experience that it's the perfect book for a cozy fall morning!
Was this review helpful?
I really, really enjoyed this book. It had a slow start with history dumps. However, it kept me invested enough to continue and get to the more action packed second half of the book. I loved the setting. The characters were easy to understand. And the cliffhanger!! I had no clue this was a series, and that was just mean. Cannot wait for the next one.
Was this review helpful?
I'm unsure what to say in this review because the third act really solidified me dying for a sequel for a book I didn't like up until the absolute very end. 

I got this book from Netgalley a while back and thought the premise sounded really cool, and thought the cover was absolutely GORGEOUS. (Seriously, it's so pretty!) I didn't know it was YA (which is fine) and didn't know it was part of a series (which I wish I would have known while reading it.) Both Barnes and Noble (YA) and Book of the Month chose the book and I was so confused about why until I got to the end. 

Everything seemed slow, and sort of repetitive, and I wasn't totally in love with Inez. Now that I know that this was the first book in a series or duology, it makes a lot more sense to me why it was so slow until the last third of the book. I also kept wishing for more of Whit's POV, but now I understand why we got literal CRUMBS because of how the ending panned out. 

Speaking of characters, I really like Whit- and will primarily read book 2 because I am invested in his story, and not really as invested in Inez or Tio Ricardo. I would love to get a POV for another adult in the book, but don't want to potentially spoil anything so I won't name names. I also hope Inez is a little less... childish? annoying? quick to make all the wrong choices in the next novel. She really didn't do much for me, and I'd love to have a little less of her, while getting a bit more of the supporting characters in the novel. 

I'm gonna jump back to the third act, where this book goes from 0-60 in absolutely NO time at all, and I will say the last 20% or so of this book was a wild ride and I gasped out loud several times, and was fully buckled in for wherever the book took me. I think this is book that would benefit being 300-350 pages vs. the 416 that we were given. A lot of fluff could have been cut and we could have gotten to some of the big reveals and big action scenes a lot faster which I think would have done a lot for me in rating this book 4, or even 5 stars. I am excited that it seems the next book will pick up pretty fast due to events at the end of this book taking us right into the action. 

I will say one thing for this book, is that the descriptions were beautiful, and I really did feel immersed in Egypt, and in the beginning in Argentina. It gives big Stephanie Garber and Alexandra Bracken vibes (which make sense if you read the author note) and any Romance plot Emily Henry has a hand in helping to figure out has to be great. (and it WAS!). I loved seeing some of my favorite authors be here to work on different part of this book that really took me back to how good they are at their respective writing. (Bracken for transporting you to faraway places and fast paced action, Henry for Romance, Stephanie for a bit of magic and beautiful descriptions of clothing and also a lot of big reveals.)

Keep in mind this is YA, and it does read like YA-- so if that isn't for you I might give this a skip.
Was this review helpful?
Having read and reviewed Ibañez' previous novel, Together We Burn and loving it, I jumped at the chance to read, What the River Knows.  Unfortunately, it was a disappointment.  It wasn't up to the same caliber as her previous novel in my opinion.  The pacing is what primarily killed it for me.  Nothing magical or heart stopping occurred even by the 45% point.  The story seemed to drag on without gaining any steam.  I did skip around some and it didn't appear to get anymore exciting than it already was.  The ending, a cliffhanger, just didn't propel me to want to read any more that I already did.

The characters in the novel didn't appeal to me.  I couldn't connect with them and I didn't think they were developed enought for me to have any emotional ties to them.

After thinking long and hard about continuing and finishing the novel, I agonizingly decided against it -- considering the ending and the slow pacing.  An unfortunate one star DNF at 45%

I received a DRC from St. Martin's Press through NetGalley.  The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.
Was this review helpful?
If Amelia Peabody had a niece whose parents disappeared on a treasure-seeking expedition, and started seeing visions of ancient Egypt after putting on a gold ring…

Inez is a young Argentinian woman whose absentee parents - wealthy patrons of egyptologists - suddenly disappear, presumed dead. She crosses the ocean and defies her stubborn uncle and his infuriating assistant in an effort to discover what has happened to them. But everything — and everyone — is not what they seem. 

The set up here is a lot of fun - mystery! adventure! treasure! murder (maybe)! romance! There’s a lot to like here: a plucky young woman who won’t take no for an answer when it comes to getting the answers she deserves, a fabulous setting (Philae is absolutely stunning), and a dashing love interest.

But the execution didn’t really live up to it. It’s a bit my own fault I didn’t realize [b:What the River Knows|65213381] is the first of at least two books (though it’s not advertised as such), but getting to the last few chapters and realizing we weren’t heading for a resolution was jarring to say the least.

And the mystery wasn’t well executed. There’s a difference between letting a mystery unspool across many pages only to have the threads come together in a satisfying conclusion, and then there’s just not telling the reader anything until (maybe) the end. It’s hard to know how much of what is unresolved was left that way for future books, versus just not well set up. Plus - what looks like a cliffhanger betrayal at the end is more baffling than shocking.

Their romance was sweet, but I wanted to see more growth and depth from Inez and Whit, rather than the same beats repeated over and over. I found Tio Ricardo’s actions — particularly as the story went on — to not make much sense, and the role of Inez’s cousins to be thrown in for effect without it suiting the logic of the narrative. 

I enjoyed this enough that I’ll probably read a sequel when it arrives, but it fell short of my expectations.

<i>Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.</i>
Was this review helpful?
I want to preface this review that I may either be the wrong audience for this or I possibly read this book when I wasn't in the mood. I think it is really well written and the characters are interesting and engaging and I'm curious to see it going forward - especially with that out of left field ending. I wouldn't even call it a cliffhanger because it just felt so random and I have a lot of questions.

I think for me maybe the pacing was just off. It starts rather slow before the main plot gets going and the character of Inez is very stubborn and hard headed while also being really naive which is kind of a lethal combination in a YA book. There are more than a few moments where I was screaming at my book for her not to make a certain decision or not trust a person. There are also multiple people in the book that call her out for being too trusting or running into situations without thinking it through and I feel like the consequences of her actions are not really felt until the end and even then she doesn't really take responsibility.

The Egyptian setting and background is fascinating and I would like more of that. Particularly the magic system I would love more information on how that works - can everyone feel magic? Where is it more prevalent, do some people have more of a proclivity?

I think the relationship between Whit and Inez is the strongest part of the book although I don't know how well it holds up under scrutiny. I want to root for them...hopefully that's enough. Whit also has some random POVs in the book that seem really unnecessary and don't add anything to the book in my opinion.

I wasn't going to continue on with the series but the ending really captured my attention and now I'm rethinking a lot so I'll definitely pick up the next book because I want to see what happens.

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an E-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
A sweet mix of history, magic, family and enemies to lovers. The story kept me turning pages and made me question everyones motives not trusting what they wanted from the search for Cleopatra. My one unease of the book is that Inez has a connection to Cleopatra through the magic she is pulled to but its never explored deeper than it being a took to find the tomb. Is there more to their connection that isn't explored? The cliffhanger at the end left me needing a second book as soon as possible to know what happens with the treasure, the love story and the deceit to come!
Was this review helpful?
What the River Knows is a mystery, fantasy and romance all packaged together with a historical fiction framework.

The story is told mostly from one point of view — Inez. However, her uncle’s assistant, Whit, gets a few chapters — interspersed throughout the novel — of his own.

Inez is a young woman trapped by society’s dictates. She’s supposed to be a poised young woman with every hair in place. She’s supposed to marry well and take her place in society. But she’s not. Inez is an artist who is full of curiosity. She’s smart and independent and knows her own mind. She’s stubborn and full of fire, and is able to think on her feet.

While Inez is an open book, Whit is an enigma. He’s never what he seems and will keep readers guessing until the last page. Even as she begins to fall for Whit, she can’t quite figure out “who” he his. An ex-soldier, Whit is strong and handsome and he knows his way around explosive situations. He’s drawn to Inez, but tries to keep his distance.

The push and pull between Inez and Whit is fun to read, and their playful banter adds a lightness to the novel overall. But the real star of the show is Egypt.

Author Isabel Ibañez’s ability to transport readers to 19th century Egypt is commendable. All five senses are awakened by her scene building. You really feel as if you’re walking through the bazar, eating the sweets, floating on the Nile and entering ancient Egyptian ruins.

And then there’s Cleopatra. Ibañez makes you feel as if the last pharaoh of Egypt is sitting right in front of you. In Ibañez’s world, the magical elements that bring Cleopatra to life feel right and real.

What the River Knows is an immersive read with a few twists you’ll see coming and a whole bunch that will knock you off your seat. With a beautiful cover and magical mystery, this historical romance is the whole package. I can’t wait to read its sequel.
Was this review helpful?
The Mummy meets Death on the Nile is a pretty good comparison for this book. It was a lovely story. The magic and mystery was fun. The historical Egyptian setting beautiful and the mythology and ancient history fun and inspiring to learn about. The characters were plotted well, but I found the romance hard to follow.

It was 50/50 for me but I think that for atmosphere alone this book is worth a try.

Thank you to Wednesday books and Netgalley for a complimentary advanced copy of this book. All the review opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Treasure hunting along the Nile, family secrets, and the delicious tease of young romance make WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS a compelling read.

☀️ Book Review: WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS by Isabel Ibañez ☀️

Inez Olivera belongs to the high society of Argentina, but her parents spend half their time every year in Egypt away from her, their only daughter. When they mysteriously die in Egypt and nobody answers her directly, Inez takes matters into her own hands, ignores all the rules, and joins her uncle’s archeological team in Egypt.

What Inez doesn’t expect are whispers of murder, the hum of magic, a connection to Cleopatra, and a budding romance. Yet, this all makes the adventure a highly satisfying story that had me reading way past my bedtime.

Definitely recommend!

😘 Thank you @WednesdayBooks, @StMartinsPress, and @NetGalley for the early eARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this book. The world building was great and really drew you in. It definitely gives The Mummy and Death on the Nile vibes. Everything was well written from the romance to the twists and turns. I highly recommend this book.
Was this review helpful?
4.75 stars! -- This book is what would happen if The Mummy met Indiana Jones and Death on the Nile. As a huge fan of all three I ate this book up! I also read and loved Ibanez's previous book Together We Burn and was really looking forward to this.

I really enjoyed the lush details, attention to the cultural implications of the antiquities trade, and the discussion of grief in different settings. The setting mixes 1880s Argentinian and Egyptian history as we know it, but adds in a touch of fantasy and magic to the world. (The magic latching on to people and objects interested me a lot!) I enjoyed the moments where the team is scouting out the tombs and could feel the rush that comes with finding artifacts and places that have been left for many centuries.

Inez is a strong character because she's had to adapt to things quickly but she remains positive even when faced with some strong betrayals and plot twists. Whit is a hot-and-cold character and since it's only book one of a duology, we still don't know him fully. Yet the chemistry between Whit and Inez is totally apparent. Their banter alone had me laughing out loud several times. My favorite 'Whinez' moment was when Whit is chasing Inez's carriage on foot and she literally just sits back, blows him a kiss and appreciates his agility and determination? Immaculate vibes there, your honor.

A quote that resonated with me a lot was: "The truth had a way of changing things." Like how about that twist ending?? I am shook, Ms. Ibanez. And now I have to wait for like months? a year? to know what happens?? I am probably going to watch The Mummy just to recover from that cliffhanger ending in the interim of waiting for book two!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced readers copy. This did not affect my review in any way.
Was this review helpful?
Inez has spent seventeen years feeling second fiddle to her parent’s obsession with Egypt. When a letter brings the worst news possible, Inez leaves the safety of her home in Argentina to find out what happened to her parents. 

But a young woman traveling alone in 1884 is prey to all sorts of danger, and her uncle is determined to send her home right away. Inez is determined to help, so she dodges the roguishly handsome man her uncle has assigned to guide her. With her connection to an ancient magic, she knows she can help, even when everyone else says it’s too dangerous.

If only someone will tell her the truth long enough to know what she’s in danger from…

“They’d chosen Egypt, had given themselves heart, body, and soul.”

Her parents' obsession with Egypt has made a lasting impression on Inez, and now that the distant land of wonder and mystery has stolen them from her forever, she’s no longer content to stay in Argentina. I loved how Inez refused to be a passive character in this story. At every turn, she does the opposite of what is expected of her.

I loved seeing her grow, and even more as she falls in love with Whit, despite the obstacles there.

This book is full of vivid descriptions that pull you into that Death on the Nile aesthetic, heightened by a delightful cast of characters.

There’s a heartbreaking twist, but that’s not the worst thing that happens to Inez. The epilogue just makes it worse!

I’m not opposed to epilogues that promise a future story, but the ending of this one felt abrupt, like we didn’t hit the actual conclusion of this book.

There is some swearing in this book, but not from the main character. A few kisses and one short make-out scene. Violence is minimal, but threats are frequent.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books for an advance reader copy. This is my honest review.
5 Roses
Was this review helpful?
My thanks for the ARC goes to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books. I'm voluntarily leaving a review.

Genre: Fantasy, Romantasy, Historical Fantasy, Historical Mystery
Age: Marketed as YA, but I think it's better for the adult market
Spice Level: Medium because of visit to prostitute's domain

Did you ever read Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series? WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS has some of that vibe but updated for today's audience; a little less innocent plus magic.

The magic is sparsely sprinkled throughout, but I loved it. Magic feels rare and valuable (and potentially dangerous).

I immediately liked both Inez and Whitford Hayes—you can just tell they're going to be at each others' throats. Haha. I also love the history of Egypt and archeology that's tossed in along with ethical concerns. And I loved how this book includes Cleopatra.

If I was reading this with an adult audience in mind, it gets all the stars. For YA, I'm docking a star. because of sexual content and language. (Not that kids don't participate in all these things, but . . . I prefer fiction to avoid these things for teens because their parents might not know what's in there.)

I'm anxious to read more about Inez and her world!

Happy reading!
Was this review helpful?