WHAT THE RIVER KNOWS by Isabel Ibañez.
Hodderscape. h/b. £16.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Buenos Aires, 1884. Inez’s father collects artefacts that have been touched by magic, filling their house with treasures and trinkets, but to Inez’s dismay, her parents spend six months of every year away from her in Egypt while she is left behind with her aunt and cousins. Hiding from Tia Lorena and her proper instructions as an heiress and lady – as she so often does – Inez dreams of one day accompanying her parents on their adventures. When a visitor arrives bringing a letter from Egypt, it may finally be her chance to get her dream.
Months later, Inez does indeed find herself en route to Cairo, although the journey will not be the same one she had imagined for so many years. That future is lost to her now, and all she has is a single ring sent to her by her father to begin her own discoveries. Soon enough, young Inez finds herself surrounded by strangers, mysteries and those with the power to control her life against her will.
What the River Knows is a very readable YA mystery story that places its resilient and endearing young heroine at its core. With a well-realised period setting, we get Agatha Christie meets Indiana Jones, alongside a good dose of antagonism and a little romantic possibility to keep the tension humming.
The mysteries, twists and turns keep on coming, and consequently the pages keep on turning in this first half of the Secrets of the Nile duology. It moves at an excellent pace with the right balance of action and worldbuilding.
The narrative unfolds to deliver an intense and moving story of discovery, as Inez’s begins to uncover the truth behind her parents’ activities in Egypt. Nothing is ever quite what it seems for our protagonist, and Ibañez cleverly takes the reader from one emotion to the next; from elation to hope to despair and finally to a phenomenal ending that just begs for the final part of the story.