River Secrets by Shannon Hale

2006. Bloomsbury. Hardcover. 290 pages.

From: the public library

For the challenge: What’s In A Name (body of water)


River Secrets is the third of Hale’s Books of Bayern.  Razo, a supporting character in the previous two books becomes the protagonist in this book.  His country – the country of Bayern – has just negotiated an uneasy peace with the country of Tira, with whom they had been at war (detailed in Book #2, Enna Burning – see my review here).  As a step toward creating goodwill between the two nations, each country warily sends a diplomatic party to reside in the other country’s capital city, complete with soldiers in peacekeeping mode.  Razo is chosen to go, though he is not physically imposing, nor known for any particular talent or skill.  He smarts from fellow soldiers’ whispers that he was selected for the mission only because he is the queen’s friend.  However, when things start going awry in Tira, he will discover that he has more to offer than he imagined.


Razo is not a character that I remember well from the first book of the series.  I remember him better in the second book, but I couldn’t say that I was excited to read a book where he was the main character.  Count me as surprised when I found myself thoroughly engaged by his story.  I liked that Razo has no magical skill that he must learn to harness, which gives him an everyman appeal.  More specifically, he reminded me of guys I have encountered before – skilled at becoming pals with all sorts of people by way of his easygoing, jocular air.  I love how his superior officer taps into that skill for strategic gain.

It was cool to see Enna and Finn’s story continue to play out through Razo’s eyes.  Readers of Enna Burning can read into these observed scenes more than Razo can, as he does not have the benefit (as we do) of knowing Enna’s story from Enna’s  perspective.  Also, I greatly appreciate that the main characters from the previous novels do not subside into happy-ever-afters but continue to face challenges.

Hale’s Books of Bayern series impresses me in the way that each new book is not simply about focusing on a new protagonist, but also about allowing the world-building to evolve.  Regarding the broader story of Bayern and Tira, I really liked that River Secrets is about the difficulties of achieving peace between enemies.  Both countries have terrible, wrong rumors about the others’ customs and motivations, borne out of ignorance and rampant demonization.  Only by living among and really getting to know their enemy, do the Bayern people discover the humanity of their former enemies.  Who says fantasy novels have nothing to do with the real world?

Others’ Reviews:

Book Crumbs – “For the first time in the Books of Bayern, River Secrets had a hint of mystery in it as well, which I really liked.”

bookshelves of doom – “River Secrets is full of action, intrigue and romance.  It’s classic Shannon Hale — superb writing, likable characters and a world that I wouldn’t mind stepping into.”

The Children’s Literature Book Club – “As with her other novels, Hale continues to address the issues of classes, war, and prejudice in a way that’s not too threatening to her young audience. Underdogs will relate to Razo and root for him to succeed on his mission and succeed in love.”

In Search of Giants – “River Secrets is a fantastic little read.  It’s fast-paced, with a solid plot and characterization, uppity but sincere royalty, plus a romance or two.”





Filed under Fantasy, Supernatural & Surreal

3 responses to “River Secrets by Shannon Hale

  1. Erin Leigh

    Great review! I need to go back and read all the Books of Bayern back to back, but I think River Secrets might be my favorite.

  2. I love this book too (the whole series, really) for the exact same reasons you point out. And I LOVE how you put this: ” Only by living among and really getting to know their enemy, do the Bayern people discover the humanity of their former enemies. Who says fantasy novels have nothing to do with the real world?” Exactly!

    I must get my hands on the fourth book soon. I can’t believe it’s been out for over a year and I haven’t read it.

  3. Erin – I think River Secrets is probably the strongest one in the way of story-telling. I remember the second one getting a little convoluted at times.

    Nymeth – I’m not surprised we’re in agreement on that point! I remember you had a post sometime in the last year that was an awesome defense of fantasy.

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