A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross was the Illumicrate book for March, and given that it’s a Scottish inspired fantasy written by an American author I had been a little concerned about it. But I wanted to keep reading the books along with the Discord group so I gave it a shot.
I’m glad I did because I ended up really enjoying this one! We follow a young man who is called back to his native island in Scotland by his clan leader to request his help, and he’s asked to bring his harp with him. When he gets back he discovers that girls are going missing and no one knows who is taking them, but Jack doesn’t know how he can help.
First up, I really wasn’t mad at how Ross portrayed Scotland! Now, grain of salt, I’m half Scottish (hi mum), from the South West of Scotland (most definitely not the northern isles), and I’ve never lived there. I am not the authority on whether this was authentic or not. But usually with US authors attempting to write about other cultures, it tends to be pretty obviously bad. And in this case it wasn’t! And in the acknowledgements Ross lists some of the sources she used for research, which I definitely loved!
I really enjoyed this book, it was so much fun and such a pleasure to read. The writing style flowed beautifully and I enjoyed delving back into the world each day. The worldbuilding of this community was done brilliantly through a combination of Jack’s memories and him learning about the community as it is now through brand new experiences. We also get POVs from others in the community that allow us to gain a deeper understanding of their personal lives and we learn more about the division of the island overall.
The character development was wonderful also. Jack starts off very clearly wishing to be a mainlander and to leave as quickly as possible. He slowly is brought around to re-learn the wonders of the island. We also see gruff characters learn to show their vulnerability, others learn to be tough in adversity, and so much more.
I do have a couple of negatives unfortunately. The first is that there were some issues with realistic relationship developments. We are told about how some relationships were when Jack used to live on the island as a child, but how these relationships are now when he returns doesn’t quite add up, and Ross’ attempts to make them match falls a little short. It’s disappointing given how much I enjoyed all the other character interactions.
The second negative is that the ending of this book is clearly angling for a sequel, one we already knew was coming as this is set to be a duology. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m totally here for a sequel. I want to know a lot more about this world and this society as well as being more than happy to spend time with these characters again. But it was just so obviously and clunkily done that it was a disappointment after the flow of the story up until this point.
Going back to a positive, I adored how music was used in this story and how it was integrated into the magic system. Apparently this is something I really love in my YA fantasy books and I really need to look for more books with this trope! The musicality is woven beautifully into the character arc, the magic, and the society as a whole and I loved each time we learnt more about it.
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 8, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 8, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 8, Enjoyment: 8 which gives a score of 8.29 and a 4.5* rating!
Highlight here for trigger warnings: physical assault, kidnapping, raids, armed conflicts, loss of a parent, mention of stillbirths, loss of children, cutting.
I really want to learn more about this world and I am 100% here for reading the sequel when it comes out, I just hope Illumicrate does another gorgeous edition to match! Have you read A River Enchanted, do you plan to? Let me know!