Cover Image: What the River Knows

What the River Knows

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Member Reviews

I’m torn. What the River Knows is a YA Fantasy book chock-full of adventure, mystery, and romance set in Egypt. 

Inez has grown up competing with her parents’ love for Egypt. Every year, they traveled to Egypt for 6 months without her. Now that she is older, she’s determined to join them. Only things don’t go to plan when Inez receives upsetting news regarding her parents. Now, Inez is venturing to Egypt for the first time to look into her parents’ disappearances. 

Now, as for why I am torn, this book has so much potential. Mystery. Magic. Romance. Egyptian history. It should be the recipe for a riveting read, but it fell flat. The pacing was all over the place. It was easy for me to set this book down for days at a time. 

If you’re looking for a YA Fantasy set in Egypt with adventure and a slow-burn rivals-to-lover story, pick up this book! I’m looking forward to the sequel! I need answers. Do you hear me, Isabel Ibañez? I said I need answers.
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Holy cow, that ending!

This book was such a fun reading experience for me. It had great atmosphere, great characters, forbidden romance, plot twists around every corner, and a really exciting mystery to unravel.

We follow our protagonist, Inez, as she runs away to Egypt after learning about the death of her parents. They spent most of their time in Egypt and would never allow her to visit them. So upon their deaths, she decides to take a chance, visit her uncle who is working in Egypt, and see if she can unravel the mystery of her parent's deaths.

When she arrives she discovers that there is a lot more at stake than she realized. With no one to trust she has to go by her own intuition and sense of magic.

If I had to complain about anything, it's the magic - I feel like it was really unnecessary to the story and was never fully explained. Every time it was mentioned it took me out of the story a little bit. But that really was a very small aspect of the story.

I really enjoyed this and look forward to the sequel. With a wild cliffhanger like that, I hope I don't have to wait too long!
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I had high hopes for this book and was intrigued by the premise as well as the location. I just couldn’t make a real connection with any of the characters. The romance was cringy and adventure/mystery made me wanting more.
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This book is a wonderful mix of the best parts of the Mummy movie and an excellently plotted mystery.  I also appreciate having a book to recommend to people looking for something set in Egypt that is not the same old same old.
4.5 stars out of 5
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A fun and adventurous young adult tale. I love Ibenez’s writing style, visually descriptive and colorful without over explaining. Just enough detail to paint the picture and let our imaginations fill in the rest, which keeps the flow of the book moving, if not entirely perfect. The quest through Egypt was highly entertaining, with shady characters, and magical moments.

Some of the best focus in the book is on the historical treatment of Egypt and its artifacts. It’s a politically and socially charged story without bombarding the reader with superiority of thoughts or diatribes. It’s a fantastic balance told in between spaces and then woven into the larger plot.

Then come the passionate characters. Inez, who demands answers (seriously, people, just give the girl some information!). Witt, whose frustration seems to be both without and within. A whole slew of people intent to help or harm Egypt. And Cleopatra… kinda. Connections and relationships are found/ forged/ tested/ broken.

There were a few emotional segues that were clunky though… however, I read an advanced copy and it could have been polished by publication. My only other notes concerned the cousin being barely more than a prop, I’m a big proponent of fully developed and useful secondary characters. And I wanted a little more umph from the magical elements. They were fun and occasionally quirky, but I thought something was missing.

The ending obliterated my other note though. It’s a great cliffhanger. Gave depth and understanding to what I thought was an underdeveloped character. Nope. Just mysterious. I’m highly motivated for book 2. 

* I received a free early ecopy from the publisher.
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Can I just do incoherent screaming as a review? Cause that was me in the last 10 chapters. I love figuring out the “who done it” in a book and I was all over the place with my guesses. I managed to get a couple right, but definitely a looot more wrong, which points to the good misdirection and red herrings thrown into the book. The emotional roller coaster I went on trying to figure it out was amazing. Also a dual twist cliffy????? Amazing.
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I really liked the idea for this book, I had to switch over to audio because it wasn't working for me... I think this is a decent book, it was a little slow paced for me...
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Important things you need to know about the book:

Pace: What the River Knows was medium-paced. For the most part, it suited the book. But there were parts, mainly towards the end of the book, where I felt the pacing dragged out some scenes.

Trigger/Content Warning: What the River Knows does have trigger and content warnings. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book. They are:

Death (moderate to graphic, on and off page)
Death of a parent (minor to moderate, off-page)
Murder (moderate to graphic, on and off page)
Grief (moderate to graphic, on page)
Gun Violence (graphic, on page)
Colonisation (moderate, off and on page)
Violence (on page, graphic)
Blood (on page, graphic)
Kidnapping (minor, off page)
Abandonment (graphic, on and off page)
Cultural Appropriation (graphic, on and off page)
Injury (moderate, on and off page)
Alcohol (moderate, on page)
Alcoholism (minor, on page)
Confinement (minor, on page)
Gaslighting (moderate, on page)
Cheating (minor, off page)
Military Violence (minor, off page)
Sexual Content: There are no sex scenes in What the River Knows. But there are kissing scenes, and those kisses get a little passionate.

Language: There is no swearing in What the River Knows. There is language that people might consider offensive but is era-appropriate.

Setting: What the River Knows takes place entirely in Egypt. The prologue takes place in Argentina.

Tropes: Orphan, Enemies to Lovers, Love/Hate Relationship, Ancient Secrets, Babysitting, Magic, Secrets, Slow Burn Romance, Powerful Artifacts, Forced Proximity

Age Range: I recommend What the River Knows to anyone over 16.

Plot Synopsis (as spoiler-free as I can get):

Inez Olivera has everything she wants in nineteenth-century Argentina except the attention of her Egypt-obsessed parents. Inez is devastated when she receives a letter informing her of her parents’ deaths. Wanting answers, Inez boards a ship to Egypt. But what she finds there doesn’t answer her questions. She finds an uncle who is closed off and angry. His associate/bodyguard, a handsome British man, keeps trying to send her home. But, after finding evidence that suggests her parents’ deaths were not the tragic accident that she had been told, Inez is determined to stay and find out what happened to them. Can Inez find out the truth? Or is everything that she had been told a lie?

Main Characters

Inez Olivera: I liked Inez. She was spunky, didn’t take crap from anyone, was inventive with how to get her way (i.e., staying in Egypt), and was determined to investigate her parents deaths. There were times that I feared for her life in the book (the one scene when she fell into the Nile had me on edge). I liked that she had layers to her, and the more time I spent with her in the book, the more layers were revealed.

Whitford Hayes: I wasn’t sure what to think of him when the book began. But, as the book continued and his backstory was explained, I started to like him. The author did something different with him; she held much of his background until the last minute. He was indeed an enigma.

My Review:

What the River Knows is a long book. It took me three days to finish. But in those three days, I relished what was written. I was immersed in the storyline and connected with the characters. And yes, like other reviewers, I was very much surprised by the ending and the epilogue. But even before that, the surprises that the author had up her sleeve were almost never-ending.

What the River Knows is a dual-POV book. The story is told mainly from Inez’s POV, but Whit gets his chapters in occasionally. Whit’s chapters explain some mystery that swirls around Inez’s parents, her uncle, and other plotlines. But, what his chapters do not do is verify his feelings for Inez.

I have read very few books centered almost entirely on Egyptian pharaohs and mythology. I enjoyed the mystery of Cleopatra’s tomb. I didn’t enjoy what was happening while Inez, Whit, and the rest of their group were looking for it. I understand why the author did it, but I still wasn’t a fan.

What the River Knows has a few plot twists that will surprise you. I did see the first one coming (sorry to the author). It was set up perfectly so that I would not miss it. This is the catalyst for everything that happens after the twist happens. The author was sneaky and added two plot twists at the very end of the book. I saw neither of those plot twists coming. So, saying I was surprised is an understatement. I was more surprised at the twist in the epilogue than I was at the one at the very end of the book.

The romance angle of the book was slow. It was so slow that I forgot it was even there until Inez was on the ship with Whit. While I had no question of Inez’s feelings towards Whit (ranging from irritation to love), I did question Whit’s. That’s all I am going to say about that.

The fantasy angle of the book was well written. But, like the romance, it was barely there until the middle of the book. I liked how the author wrote about the magic, though. It was exciting and is something that I hope the author expands on in the next book.

As I mentioned multiple times, the end of What the River Knows was a huge surprise. There was so much crammed into it that it did take me a minute to process. But the cliffhanger ending (which annoyed me) and the two twists had me up in arms (see above). It was very sneaky of the author to do that. It was all I thought about for a while after I stopped reading the book.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books, NetGalley, and Isabel Ibanez for allowing me to read and review this ARC of What the River Knows. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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The reviews and ratings for this book have been all over the place so I knew I had to finally read my copy. I started reading this on my Kindle, but at 14% I was forcing myself to pick it up…so I grabbed it on Libby and enjoyed it so much more. The narration was very well done and there was enough going on that kept me intrigued. I loved the Egyptian setting, but was confused by the “magic” that was randomly mentioned. Overall, I was entertained enough to finish it and was very invested at times, but for some reason the ending made me feel blah about the whole story. Trying to decide if I’d be interested in a sequel…
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a fantastic novel that perfectly blends everything I love about fantasy books: adventure, forbidden romance, and a great plot with multiple twists! I loved the whole mystery aspect and the strong, independent female lead. The romance and the banter was phenomenal and I was surprised by how much I loved this book overall. Unputdownable!
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What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez is a YA romantic historical fantasy novel that is perfect for fans of Divine Rivals and/or The Mummy (1999) film. Ibañez does an excellent job weaving an interesting (and sometimes unexpected) plot, developing characters with realistic motivations and responses, and finishing this novel with quite the punch. I had a wonderful time reading this novel, and I can't wait for the sequel.
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What the River Knows is a historical fantasy novel set in late 1800’s Egypt.  It defiantly has The Mummy vibes. The actual fantasy aspect of this book is fairly minimal, as magic only clings to old objects in this version of history. However, I found it works satisfactorily because the magic didn’t overpower the importance of the setting and the archaeology. This book had a great mix of adventure, history, and romance that I loved. If you’re looking for a fun YA fantasy, then this book is for you.
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This was such a fun book taking place in Egypt! Although this has conversations of colonialism, I did enjoy seeing cultures mix and reading different languages and just warmed my little traveler, modern day heart. There was a lot in this story I really enjoyed from the setting and atmosphere beautifully colored to the fun banter between Inez and Whit to the magic system and mystery. All around this was so much fun, I only wished I loved all of the characters more and the general plot. My biggest issue was the tension and doubt never landed on me the way they were intended which made those particular experiences a little less fun. A few times I found myself bored and ready for more to happen but once things picked back up I was giggling, kicking my feet and enjoying my time. I cannot say it enough I loved this world and setting, the mix of fantasy and history. Learning real events in a fun way AND THAT ENDING!?
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Pub date: 10/31/23
Genre: YA, historical fiction, magical realism
Quick summary: Inez lives a charmed life in Buenos Aires while her parents explore and excavate in Cairo - until their deaths bring her to Egypt and she starts to untangle the mysteries of their lives.

This book had so much intrigue and so many twists, and the last page of the epilogue shocked me! I enjoyed the armchair travel to 19th century Cairo and seeing the city through Inez's eyes. It became clear that she was in over her head, and I loved seeing her spar (and flirt) with Whit and try to unravel her uncle's secrets and true intentions. I paired my e-ARC with a library audiobook, and I really enjoyed both formats. This is a strong start to the duology!

Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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What the River Knows by Isabel Ibanez is set in late-19th century Cairo, Egypt, and the historical setting and archaeological aspects featured in this novel were some huge standouts! I love it when an author has the ability to bring the story to life in a way that feels tangible, and I was fully immersed in this one.

I absolutely adored our main characters. The FMC, Inez Olivera, is strong-willed and refreshingly open and forthcoming. She's a great contrast to the enigma that is one Whitford Hayes. The tension between the two of them was so delightful and could be cut with a knife.

The last 25-30% of this book was a wild ride! And I audibly gasped, screamed, and reread that ending over and over. I will not know peace until I have the next book in my hands!

4.5/5 stars
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I think that the plot was good, the setting was very good, and the magic was interesting. But for me the characters seemed off, the romance didn't hit or make very much sense within the plot for me. Overall I wanted to like it more than I did, but am still excited for the sequel
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I am obsessed with this book cover it’s beautiful, and the words inside are beautiful too. The descriptions and setting made feel like I was back in time on the Nile with Inez, 

I loved the mystery of trying to figure out what happened to Inez’s parents and the twists. 
I loved Inez and Whit’s banter and their flirtation. I loved the magical aspect and wanted a lot more of that. 

There are a few things I did not love. This reads more like historical fiction than fantasy, I needed more magic.  Inez was sometimes great, fierce and independent, and other times more on the annoying side and too naive and rash. There is a storyline that happens near the end that I disliked. I found the ending confusing but it is working because I am still thinking about it and I want the next book yesterday. 

Overall it’s a good story, but I wish there was more magic.
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I wanted to love this, I really did, but this was just not the book for me - 2.5 stars

The story centers around Inez’s trip to Egypt, to feel closer to the parents she’s just lost - and it turns into a romantic fantasy meets mystery novel. 

The marketing of this as ‘The Mummy’ meets ‘Death on the Nile’ honestly does a disservice to what this story is trying to do. It felt distracting to the characters - I was constantly comparing Inez and Whit to Eve and Rick - and the characters in this story simply did not live up to their level of chemistry

What I feel was done really well with this was the atmospheric writing, the scenes and setting were described in such detail it was incredibly easy to picture the character's environment. Ibañez also took great care with the historical accuracy of the time period and setting within Egypt.

The pacing was the largest contributor to its downfall for me. Everything unraveled far too slowly; the romance, the story, the mystery - every time some new piece of evidence was unveiled, or there was an inch gained with the romantic relationship, things immediately went cold again.  

The narrative surrounding the relationship between Inez and Whit also felt a bit overdone at times- there would be a scene that would clearly display Whit softening emotionally towards Inez, but then this gesture would be cheapened by over-telling experienced with Inez’s inner dialogue. Whit’s character is meant to come across as “cool”, described through a lot of nonchalant body language - but to me, it just wedged too large of a divide in the tension between the two. 

A massive thank you to St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books and NetGally for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Holy rollercoaster of emotions!! This was such a whirlwind fantasy adventure story that kept me guessing the entire time I was reading. I never knew where the plot was going to take me and the plot twists in this book were earning their paycheck bc they were plot twisting!! 

I also loved the historical setting so much! I'm not one to read historical fiction on its own, but pairing it with a sub-genre like fantasy and romance, and i'm locked in! I also loved that the majority of the book was set in Egypt treasure hunting, it gave me big "The Mummy (1999)" vibes that warmed my nostalgic heart. 

The cute hate to love/bad first impressions forbidden romance subplot was so good wow, I can't wait for more development in that front in the sequel.

Overall, this was such a fun story and I can't wait to pick up the sequel after that cliffhanger!! 

Thank you Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the eARC.
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Really fun idea. Love the different cultures from our main character and the setting in Egypt. Honestly, this book kept being recommended as giving The Mummy energy—which, yes but more loosely. When this book was recommended to me I thought it was more adult. I tend to veer away from YA because it has a different style of writing, characterization, and plot: but overall I think this is a great YA story.
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