I rated this dark fantasy as 4/5 stars. It’s all written in one point of view in first person present tense narrative. River of Shadows is the first in a series. I can’t really label this as a romance in any way though it’s marketed as “dark fantasy adult romance.” Yes there were 3ish sex scenes, but there was no relationship building moments and no resolution of any kind so I can’t classify it as romance under my definition.
I recommend this if you like spicy reads without much thought needed.
Here’s my live comments while reading:
River of Shadows had a lot of intro info with a map and glossary of characters with pronunciations and trigger warnings. I appreciate all the extra information about Finnish mythology before the story even begins. This is a book I had on my “purchase” list but actually randomly found it at a library so I’m sorry to Karina Halle for one less sale. It looks like this is a first of a series with the sequel named, “Crown of Crimson.”
This contemporary fantasy starts out in an airplane as she’s on her way to her fathers funeral on the other side of the world. Despite not growing up with him, Hanna had a close connection to her Dad. In fact she’s an empath and can feel energies quite easily. Her Dad’s ‘friends’ who pick her up from the airport give her some eerie vibes and things don’t feel quite right. But she’s grieving and out of sorts and jet lagged so everything will be fine after some sleep. Right?
Chapter 2 reveals that maybe her father is alive and some strange people with magical powers to control her mind are lying to Hanna and attacking her. Why? And who is this knight in shining armor, Rasmus? Can we trust him?
I love that I was looking for a “dark” Christmas vibe book and she was literally just thrown on a sled led by reindeer in the middle of a pine forest covered in ice. How magically perfect.
Ah! The Land of the Dead. It’s like Hades but better so far. So far it reminds me a bit of Neon Gods by Kate Robert and A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St Clair but in the snow.
So the concept of characters searching for immortality has never sat well with me. I don’t understand it. I have never feared death or moving on. My physical body doesn’t contain me. So my therapist recently asked if I feared the death of my soul or spirit. I’m not sure I do because if there’s nothing after then I wouldn’t even know. I’d just cease to exist. But I am afraid of the unknown during my life. Anxiety and stress haunts me at every turn when I doubt and consider the “what if’s…” such as fearing the death of my ego and the habitual patterns my ego tries to convince me of. If I can truly let go of what’s holding me back, then I believe abundance is on the other side. But I’m my greatest enemy by holding myself back out of fear. So in a way, yes, I’m afraid of death. But not in the ways I have witnessed most people express it. I’m truly afraid of death of my old shadow self. Because it makes me question what is awaiting me on the other side of that transition.
A bunch of her internal thoughts that are sarcastic during danger aren’t really hitting the mark for comedy. And she’s thought THIS is how I’m going to die like 5x already so I’m kind of over that.
Ok. A giant deer woman as the ferry woman. Huge murderous swans. A crazy sea monster. Mermaids. This is awesome.
In chapter 7 it’s obvious that Rasmuss won’t evolve into a romantic interest but like a brother relationship
Also, I’m realizing we know NOTHING about Hanna’s past. Did she have friends? A job? Where did she live? What are her interests? I don’t know her as a person.
Why does she have done partial powers awakening? Will Rasmus betray her later from jealousy?
Each chapter is starting with her waking up. Which is monotonous.
And just fyi there’s some printing issues with ink on some pages.
Things were starting to slow down even though we spotted a terrifying unicorn. But the bargain made reclaimed my interest.
At the halfway mark I’m feeling a bit frazzled with the chaos of the plot. There was just a huge Beauty and the Beast moment. But the writing has also referenced Phantom of the Opera. And now a mermaid is named TinkerBell. It’s just a bit much and all over the place and I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed instead of enjoying the ride. Things are happening really fast and it feels like without warning. Now that she has met her first goal and there’s a turning point I don’t know what path the rest of the story will take or what Hanna is trying to achieve next.
I’ve never understood why heroines need someone to bathe them and get them ready for an event. Other than 5 minutes at the end to tie up a corset no other assistance is needed. It doesn’t make sense.
I don’t mind swearing but Hanna says/thinks ‘fuck’ so many times that it feels to cheapen her character.
Chapter 14 didn’t go as expected but in a pleasantly surprising way compared to similar novels.
Oooh does Hanna belong there? Why was the book singing to her?
The sex scenes are hot hot hot. I just wish they had a few more scenes together or banter or just a little more flirting first to make me care more.
At the end I was a bit disappointed. Hanna didn’t have enough agency throughout. The characters didn’t have enough depth & the “climatic” scene was cut off instead of finishing. There’s two types of cliffhangers. There’s the type that still resolve the current book’s storyline and then give you something to latch onto after the resolution to get you excited for the second book. This is the kind I prefer and feels more professional. The second type are cliffhangers that just cut the dramatic scene off in the middle of the high intensity. It just feels incomplete and amateur in nature. I probably won’t be reading the sequel called “Crown of Crimson” even though it has a great premise.