The River and the Book by Alison Croggon is my first book by her since I read the Pellinor Series. We all know how much I love that series (check out my handle) so I was super excited to dive into more from her!
This is a short, but beautiful, book that has solidified my love for Croggon’s writing. We follow a young girl named Simbala who is very important in her village. She can speak to the Book, which answers the villagers questions. It’s an honoured position and one that she understands the weight of. The river is also incredibly important to the village, but they notice that it is not as prosperous as it used to be. In fact the river seems to be poisoned from the cotton plantations upstream which don’t care about what they pump into the river. One day a western woman comes to the village, looking into the damage that the river pollution is causing. But she is the biggest danger of all to the village.
This book has important and nuanced discussions on white saviours and their “good” intentions versus the negative impacts that they leave in their wake. Simbala spends years attempting to correct the impact of this western woman, but nothing will ever be the same again.
From a literature perspective we get to see so much character development from Simbala, she starts off not knowing anything about the outside world. Because she doesn’t need to. But as that need changes she slowly learns more and sees others reactions. She still maintains her convictions and her beliefs, whilst becoming a different person than she was when she left her home. There is also fantastic worldbuilding. Whilst this is a very mild urban fantasy, Croggon still does a fantastic job of embellishing and explaining the world and I feel so invested in the lives of these people.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 9, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 10, Intrigue: 9, Logic: 8, and Enjoyment: 9 giving an overall score of 8.71 and a 4.5* rating.
Highlight here for trigger warnings: a passing mention of rape, poverty depicted, cultural appropriation, death of a parent, colonialism, xenophobia.
I loved this read and I’m so so glad that I finally delved into more from Croggon. This is a beautiful book and I really do recommend picking it up! (as well as obviously the Pellinor series – duh). Have you read anything from Alison Croggon before? Are you going to now? Let me know!!
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