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Just Around The Riverbend

Sarah Tolcser’s debut novel, Song of the Current, will have you breaking out in song.

Just Around The Riverbend

BOOK REPORT for Song of the Current (Song of the Current #1) by Sarah Tolcser

Cover Story: Magic in the Moonlight
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Something Familiar
Bonus Factors: Maps, Boats Boats Boats!
Factor: Series Starter
Relationship Status: First Mate

Cover Story: Magic in the Moonlight

On the west coast beaches of Costa Rica they don’t allow any artificial lights to face the ocean because there are sea turtles that hatch all along the coast. Being out there was the first time I had ever sat by the ocean in the middle of the night, and when you stare out for so long you start to forget where the sky ends and the ocean begins, and it looks like the moon could swallow you whole. That’s what this cover reminds me of.

Do the swirly bits of magic and sparkly title really tell you what’s inside? No; it’s actually a bit more grandiose compared to how Caro spends most of her time, but this is YA publishing and it seems we’ll always be hard-pressed to get a fantasy novel without either some sparkle or a bow and arrow.

The Deal:

Caro comes from eight generations of riverfolk, and she knows exactly how her life as a wherry(wo)man will play out…it all just hinges on whenever she finally hears the river god’s call. But when she and Pa happen upon a confusing scene of burned wherrymen ships and the Margravina’s soldiers, she finds herself captain of her family’s trusty boat, Cormorant, much sooner than she’d ever planned. Saddled with cargo from a neighboring country, Caro is pressed into delivering the crate up river in exchange for her father’s freedom. She’s going to have to use all of her talents to avoid a pirate ship that will stop at nothing to retrieve the mysterious cargo she has aboard.

This description touches on basically just the first ten percent of the story, but to go into any more depth would spoil plot points that I know you’d prefer to read about yourselves.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

Caro’s grown up as one third of a small crew, so she’s done her fair share of hard work and shared the responsibility for her family’s livelihood since she was young. She values loyalty and family and taking care of your own, so I would have no compunction in being her friend.

At the start of the novel, Caro is very much a girl about to be tested; although the riverlands are as familiar to her as breathing, this is her first time running her own show, and she fears she will never be a proper captain without the river god’s favor. I empathized with her fears of never belonging and the struggle to trust in her own decisions.  

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Alas, this is another area where I cannot disclose details without robbing you of the enjoyment of reading it firsthand. Let’s just say I enjoyed the romance, and it blended nicely into the story without overpowering it.

Talky Talk: Something Familiar

I had a wonderful time with this book. This is Tolcser’s first novel and it’s a delightful effort. Her writing is clean and unfussy, yet has enough whimsy that I was wholly engaged start to finish. Her fantasy world and names/titles were easy to follow, if not a bit straightforward.

After finishing, I did have this feeling that I’ve seen this book before; there are so many familiar tropes and fantasy elements that I had basically called each plot twist as it came about. Yet I don’t mean that to sound disparaging; for one, I know I am a person who has simply read a lot of books and many are bound to feel similar. And I think it’s great when you can find new works that echo the parts you love about your old standbys, and that’s what this book did for me. There are some stories where this “familiarity” feeling is more prominent, as was the case here, but in no way did that lessen my reading experience.

Bonus Factor: Maps

This is a story with a lot of travel, so the map was extremely helpful in visualizing the twisty rivers and foreign lands.

Bonus Factor: Boats, Boats, Boats! 

Do you like sailing? Tolcser does. If you’ve never picked up a book that took place on a ship before, some of the terminology and boat-talk is going to go over your head, but don’t let words like jibe, aft, or cleat scare you away. Anyone can close their eyes and appreciate that sense of freedom that comes with being on the water: sun shining, wind in your hair, sails blowing, tiller pointed anywhere you’d like. (There’s even two helpful sketches within the map of the two main boats oft discussed.) 

Factor: Series Starter

Tolcser did wrap up the plot of this book satisfactorily enough that if you truly wanted to stop here, you’d happy with how everything ended. But she also dangled the promise of further adventures and I know I want to see what comes next.

Casting Call:

Andy Allo as Caro

Caro is half-black, half-white with auburn corkscrew curls and freckles. That is quite a specific description, so it’s tough to find an actress who fits my image of her, but Andy comes close. I even did some bad Photoshop to add some red to her hair. You’re welcome.

Gina Torres and Alan Tudyk as Caro’s parents

So Caro’s pa is white with red hair and her ma is described as a beautiful bronze statue who can be a bit ruthless. I’d immediately cast Gina Torres as her ma, because, duh, she is gorgeous and has played plenty of strong female characters, but it took me way too long to realize that Firefly had already cast the perfect redhead to go along with her. Be warned your affection for Caro may go up incrementally if you begin to imagine her coming from these two adorable humans.

Relationship Status: First Mate

I like you and believe enough in your leadership that I would happily sign up as your first mate, Book. Let's sail off together and find more adventures; I know you'll make it fun.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Bloomsbury. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. Song of the Current is available now.

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.