RIVER – Ryen Lesli
In two words: FUCK. YES. (If that offended you, then this review isn’t for you. And neither is this book.)
You had me at the dedication.
Everything you need to know about Ryen Lesli (better known as the Witch) and RIVER comes before page 1. Where she gives a full-on, no holds barred dedication to everyone, EVERYONE, who ever rejected RIVER. And then thanks them for it.
I’d like to take this moment and second that thanks. Because without those rejections, RIVER wouldn’t have become the marvelous, breath-taking book that she is.
First things first. RIVER is a YA/NA Fantasy novel that is set in our world, but not. (For more info on the ebb, it’s clans, and inhabitants, check out the archives). Also, there is liberal use of the word ‘fuck.’ Each one of them is glorious and 100% authentic. It is so refreshing to read a YA book that has a genuine teenage voice. Because teenagers swear, and swear often.
There are also elements of humor (like the contrast between how humans and Fairs speak) and horror that are woven together to create a seamless blend of genres. It’s fantasy with an urban twist with a dash of comedy and a touch of horror that can only be described as Lesli’s signature style.
The title character is everything. She’s real, authentic, and vivid. River is the epitome of what it feels like to be a teenage girl. And even though she’s a Fair from the glorious ebb, she still struggles with the things all teens struggle with, like her looks and dealing with hot guys (and by hot guys, I mean unfairly gorgeous Royals and Warriors) and figuring out how she fits into this world. Everyone who reads this will see a bit of themselves in River, whether it’s in her untamable wildness, her stubborn spirit, her awkwardness, or her sense of isolation. She is a girl torn between two worlds with an unforgiving mother and a past that haunts her. I can’t remember the last time I read a teenage character who felt so relatable.
The world building is PERFECTION. It’s consistent, has depth, and is inviting. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live like Robin Hood in the trees (with cinnamon rolls more glorious than Cinnabon) in the Banyans aka the Redwood forests of California? All of the settings come alive with Lesli’s superbly-crafted descriptions that utilize all five senses and touch on the energy of a place. She found a way to describe the indescribable, to show the way a place affects someone. Lesli’s world engages your imagination and leaves you wanting more.
And let’s not forget the two beautiful-beyond-measure men both vying for River’s attention. Forget being Team Edward or Team Jacob: will you be Team Wolf or Team Cat? (good luck choosing between them). This glorious lust-triangle fits in perfectly with the rest of the plot, which will have you from the very first sentence. This books DEMANDS to be read in one sitting. The pace is perfection, there’s always something happening, something new to explore, something lurking in the shadows.
Like the marvelous villain Angel. Don’t let her name deceive you, she makes Maleficent look positively pleasant. Angel is another way in which Lesli stands out from the crowd. She has the rare gift of showing the effect a villain has on those around them. This character is complex, vicious, terrifying, and addictive. A wonderful contrast to River.
RIVER has a unique voice that stands out from other YA books on the shelves in the best possible way. It’s so refreshing to read a book that combines the best YA has to offer with an authentic teen voice and a world that you’ll be dying to live in. This book will pull on your heartstrings and take you on an emotional roller coaster you won’t want to get off.
If you want to buy RIVER (and you totally should), you can do so here.