Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.
Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.
From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.
“There is a god at the bottom of the river” and so begins an epic adventure down the atmospheric world of the Riverlands in Sarah Tolcser’s debut novel Song of the Current.
Oh my god I loved this book!
Song of the Current is so much fun and so unique, not like anything I’d read before. Full of pirates, intrigue, hilarious banter and plenty of action Song of the Current is so underrated and such a strong debut. But what makes Song of the Current different to most YA pirate themed books is it’s strong willed and highly capable heroine Caroline and it’s sea god/river mythology. Highly recommend picking this one up in preparation for it’s sequel Whisper of the Tide releasing in early July. – Hardback edition June 5th, Paperback edition July 1st –
This was my second read through and I must say I definitely appreciated Caro’s journey even more during round two. It didn’t matter that I knew the twists and turns of the plot (and let me just tell you – there be many!) I was still just as invested, if not more so as I was swept willing back into this watery fantasy world.
It’s no secret that I’m all about water realms/worlds, pirates, swashbuckling and especially jungles. I love jungles. There’s just something about dark twisting water ways and the wherries weaving through outposts and shabby, port towns that’s just right up my ally. I knew right from page one and that mysterious opening line that this was the book for me and I was not disappointed. What I loved the most about Song of the Current was it’s unique setting and the way Sarah writes it, weaved with sailor lingo and her own mythology. The world building here guys is just amazing and I was 100% here for the aesthetic. Sarah was born to write – the way she creates atmosphere… there are just no words.
The Riverlands are a network of dark, murky rivers separating two kingdoms that provide a home as well as a smuggling route for the wherry folk. These rivers are dotted with port towns, marshy lakes, causeways and, further south, coastal cities. Eventually the rivers join The Neck, a saltwater waterway that connects to open waters and the sea where pirates lurk. Sounds pretty darn cool right? Not only is Sarah’s world building stella but the way she writes it, you can see it so clearly. There’s a lot more than just smuggling and pirating going on though. Caro is forced to take her destiny in her very capable hands when her father is arrested catapulting her into the Riverland’s magic system and political scene. And let me tell you – nothing is as it seems and you can’t trust anyone.
Within the shifting politics of the Riverlands you also have a diverse cast of characters populating the world. You have the noble houses and upperclass who are ruled by an Emparch and their guards/privateers who loiter about the rivers. There are the noble merchant families of the middleclass who are perhaps even more tricky than the pirates and only want to further themselves. Of course then there’s the pirates with their cutters who patrol the rivers hunting down the Wherries. You have the Wherry Folk whose wherries are their homes and live along the reeds and the banks of the rivers. There is also the Frogmen who live with the Wherry Folk and help sail. The Frogmen are the product of a river god falling in love with a sailors daughter – basically they are people with green skin and webbed toes. Seriously cool. I adored Fee – she’s a Frogman who sails with Caro. She’s a character of little words (apparently Frogmen don’t talk in complete sentences) but she’s so loyal and wise and I just loved her. Finally you’ve got the river god and even brief mention of sea dragons – yes please!
Caro is our protagonist and she is literally the definition of bad ass. Caro is stubborn and feisty and is more than able to hold her own on board her father’s wherry the Cormorant. She’s lived on the Riverlands her entire life so she knows how to sail with style. Caro is also a non-conformist in her world. Living on the Riverlands she chooses to forsake stays and gowns but knows how to navigate a tavern and is street smart. Caro is independent, spunky, brave yet extremely loyal. She also isn’t waiting around for a man – Caro knows what she wants and goes after it despite not having been favored by the river god.
Despite being a fantasy novel, Song of the Current feels realistic because of the well re-searched sailor lingo and boating terms. Sarah did a great job of showing the reader how Caro sails her wherry and just how strong and capable she it. I got huge Moana vibes while reading and such a better grasp on sailing than I would have had Sarah not added the terms into her prose. And speaking of prose, Song of the Current is just so lyrical and delightful. As I stated before, it really showcases the world building and paints a vast canvas in the mind.
But this review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the romance and the love interest. Enter Tarquin Meridios. When we are first introduced to him I have to admit I was so not impressed. When standing beside the very capable Caro, Tarquin is almost useless. He’s insufferable, vain, entitled, sometimes arrogant and it’s basically hate at first sight for him and Caro. But, as the adventure as well as the quest unfolds Tarquin really grows into his own and proves himself an excellent partner as he and Caro are forced to put aside their issues and rely on each other to stay alive. When his snobbish mannerisms fade away Tarquin is actually kind, fiercely devoted to his family and totally swoon-worthy. And as their hate fades into friendship and eventually love… omg I ship it!
Overall, Song of the Current is a strong debut and I really enjoyed it. The characters and their banter are fantastic but it’s really Sarah’s writing and the amazing world building that take center stage here. Engaging and whimsical, Song of the Current is full of rivers, jungles, pirates and, finally a bad ass, tough as nails female protagonist. Highly recommend.