Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Independently Published
Release Date: January 30, 2022
River of Shadows is an adult dark fantasy romance based on Finnish mythology and the underworld of Tuonela.
When 24-year old Hanna Heikkinen’s estranged father dies, she reluctantly makes the trip to Northern Finland for his funeral. Being in the enchanting land of ice and snow feels miles away from Hanna’s busy life back in Los Angeles, especially under the complicated circumstances.
But when Hanna discovers that her father’s body is missing, that’s when things really get weird. A mysterious man, Rasmus, tells Hanna the truth: her father was a powerful shaman who went into Tuonela, the Realm of the Dead, in order to barter for more life, and has been held captive by Tuoni, the God of Death. The only way her father can be freed is if she travels with Rasmus into the mythical underworld to rescue him.
Willing to do anything to have a second-chance with her father, Hanna accompanies Rasmus into the dark and bloody realm, traveling via the River of Shadows, stalked by dangerous creatures, monsters, and the living dead, until they finally come into the haunted kingdom ruled by Death and his family.
Only for her to be captured and held prisoner by the God of Death himself.
Turns out Death is intrigued by Hanna’s beauty and fierceness and makes a bargain with her. If she marries him, and spends an eternity in the Realm of the Dead as his wife, he’ll set her father free.
But even the most noble sacrifices come with hidden costs, and Hanna’s might involve the most unexpected of all things: her heart.
River of Shadows is an adult dark fantasy romance based on the Finnish mythology of the underworld of Tuonela. If you’re unfamiliar with Finnish mythology, like I am, River of Shadows has Hades and Persephone vibes.
As previously mentioned, I’m not familiar with Finnish mythology, but I never felt lost or confused despite having to learn a whole new mythology. Halle mentions in the foreword that she took certain liberties with the original mythology when crafting her world, so I cannot tell you what’s accurate or not; however I can say Halle’s world is intricate in its details and lore.
The beginning of the novel is easily my favourite part. Halle sets an unsettling tone with her atmospheric introduction to the world she’s building and the main character, Hanna.
River of Shadows is slow paced as Halle introduces readers to this new mythology and the key players. There is a lot happening beyond Hanna’s understanding of the world that can be frustrating at times. Hanna finds herself in a precarious situation and doesn’t have the liberty to ask questions or find answers.
With this lack of answers comes a lack of chemistry. Hanna and Death’s relationship is purely physical in this novel as they rarely spend time together outside of the bedroom. Though, these scenes are what readers of romance fantasy are looking for.
By the end of the novel, I still don’t know who Hanna should trust. The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger with very few questions answered, however I think the sequel, Crown of Crimson, will quickly reward readers with some much needed answers.
Overall, River of Shadows is an excellent introduction to the world Halle is building based on mythology many readers will be unfamiliar with. Despite my frustration with the lack of answers, I am very much excited to read the sequel.
***I received an ARC from Valentine PR in exchange for an honest review.
Will you be reading River of Shadows?
Karina Halle is a former travel writer, music journalist & screenwriter, and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling author of over 55 bestselling novels, ranging from horror and suspense to contemporary romance. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband, and her adopted pitbull Bruce, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Root Literary Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster, Hachette & Montlake. Her work has been translated and published in 20 languages.
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