Book Review: A River Enchanted (Elements of Cadence, #1) by Rebecca Ross

Book Review: A River Enchanted (Elements of Cadence, #1) by Rebecca Ross

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A River Enchanted is lovely fantasy brimming with Celtic-inspired lore. I felt utterly transported by it. The setting was lush, a balance of both familiar and fresh. The cast was varied, with some very interesting characters; some were even lovable. The magic was wild and enchanting and costly, and fascinatingly different across the island. The plot and the mystery element were intriguing enough to keep me invested while letting the setting and lore and characters be the true stars of the show. And the romance was beautifully balanced, core to the story without ever overwhelming the plot. There were multiple slow-burn relationships in these pages that didn’t capture me at first, but my investment in them grew as the story progressed. While it did take me a while to warm up to various aspects of this book, I grew to love it.

Our story follows Jack, a Tamerlaine of Cadence who was sent to the mainland to become a bard. His laird has called him home, in need of his musical talents. But Jack’s parentage, with his single mother and unknown father, made him feel judged and found wanting in the land of his birth, so he is hesitant to return. But the draw of duty is too much to ignore, so he leaves the life he has made for himself for the home where he never felt accepted. Once there, Jack finds himself face to face with the heiress of his side of the divided isle, a woman who, as a girl, was his nemesis. While the two might not see eye to eye, they are bound by a shared purpose: find the girls who are being kidnapped from their homes. It is this mystery, of who is taking the girls and why, that drives the story. But romance and magic, politics and a history fraught with division, are equally important tot the tale being spun.

The isle of Cadence is fascinating, with its multi-layered division between the east in the west; politics and ideology and history all divide them, but that division is also seen in tangible, and magical, ways. In the distant past, when a potential alliance between the Tamerlaines (of the east) and the Breccans (of the west) ended in tragedy and war, the island was divided by magic. One side would be lush and fertile, but the cost of magic would be steep. The other side could practice magical crafts with ease, but would strive against the land itself to no avail, never able to grow enough food to feed their people through winter. And the divide between the two is something of a magical leyline; any crossing of it immediately alerts the watchers of the boundary. Both sides have things the other needs, but neither is willing to enact a treaty, as neither feels they can trust the other to honor it.

Outside of the division, the half of the Cadence where we spend our story is just exceptionally lovely. I was very much reminded of Scotland. As I was meant to be. The magic was wonderful, if devastating it its cost: enchanted blades whose wounds could inflict fear or truth, and plaids woven with secrets that acted as armor or kept one warmer than it should. Magic here wasn’t a spell, but an enchantment entwined with the very best of a craft. I loved the work and artistry required, and also the passion and talent that made these items their most powerful. But then there was the music, which was absolutely my favorite part. The idea of music calling to the various types of elemental spirits was exceptionally lovely, and I was utterly captivated by both premise and execution.

It took a little time for the characters to grow on me, but grow on me they absolutely did. By the end of the novel, I was very fond of captain of the guard Torin, his healer wife Sidra, Jack’s weaver mother Mirin and his little sister Frae. But the obvious stars of the show were future Laird of the East Adaira and our bard main character, Jack. I have a weakness for bards as main characters, especially when their music is a large part of the plot. That’s exactly what was promised here, and Ross delivered on that promise with great aplomb.

I thought A River Enchanted was just as enchanting as the title lead me to hope. The balance of cozy vibes and stakes with some weight and resonance was pretty impeccable, and the setting and lore were wonderfully lush. I’m so glad that music was actually a focus here, and I can’t wait to see how the Elements of Cadence duology wraps up in A Fire Endless.

You can purchase this book from: Blackwell’s | (Support independent bookstores!)Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible | (Another way to support independent bookstores!) | Book Depository (Free shipping worldwide!)

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