Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t stepped foot on Cadence in ten long years, content to study music at the mainland university. But when young girls start disappearing from the isle, Jack is summoned home to help find them. Enchantments run deep on Cadence: gossip is carried by the wind, plaid shawls can be as strong as armor, and the smallest cut of a knife can instill fathomless fear. The capricious spirits that rule the isle by fire, water, earth, and wind find mirth in the lives of the humans who call the land home. Adaira, heiress of the east and Jack’s childhood enemy, knows the spirits only answer to a bard’s music, and she hopes Jack can draw them forth by song, enticing them to return the missing girls.
As Jack and Adaira reluctantly work together, they find they make better allies than rivals as their partnership turns into something more. But with each passing song, it becomes apparent the trouble with the spirits is far more sinister than they first expected, and an older, darker secret about Cadence lurks beneath the surface, threatening to undo them all.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.
A River Enchanted is the kind of book you read on a dark winters night, it’s beautiful and atmospheric and Ross’ lush writing drags you onto the isle of Cadence and refuses to let go. The Isle of Cadence has been split between two clans for as long as anyone can remember. The Tamerlaine’s to the East and the Breccan’s to the West, constantly at war with one another. Jack Tamerlaine hasn’t set foot on the Isle in 10 years, since he was sent to the mainland to study at University, so he is surprised when he receives a letter from is Laird asking him to return home. Once he returns he is even more surprised to learn that the letter didn’t come from the Laird himself but his daughter Adaira, Jacks long time nemesis as a child. Young girls have been going missing and Adaira believes the spirits are behind it and, knowing they only answer to the Bard’s music, has called Jack back to help. As they work together, they learn that the Spirits do know something of the missing children, but the more they tread down the path, the darker it gets, until they find a secret kept for years that could change the future of Cadence forever.
Told from multiple POV’s although Jack and Adaira are at the forefront of the story, A River Enchanted weaves them all together to make for an unforgettable story. Jack is a Tamerlaine by name only. Born a bastard he never felt truly accepted by the clan and saw his mainland training as a kind of banishment. He simply longs for somewhere to belong and it takes him a while before he realises that Cadence is his one true home. He resents having to work with his childhood torturer, but the more time he spends with Adaira the more he realises that in 10 years his feelings and hers may have changed. Adaira is the heiress of the East and, with her fathers growing illness, finds herself taking more and more of the Laird’s roles upon herself. She wants nothing more than peace for her people and the safe return of the kidnapped lasses, and is willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that. Torin is Adaira’s cousin and Captain of the East Guard. Linked to the border between the lands he can feel when a Breccan crosses and where, ensuring the safety of the clan. But his job weighs heavy on him, as does the slaughter of Breccan’s he has committed, and he wonders whether it is too late to become something else. Sidra is Torin’s second wife and step-mother to his daughter Maisie. She likes her life, but longs for something more, she longs for her ever distant husband to return home more often, and she longs to be something more to Maisie than she thinks she deserves, and is willing to admit. The story is peppered through with other POV’s that help add to the atmosphere as well as fill in chunks of the story that would otherwise be looked over, and they all play a large part in furthering the plot.
Having spent a good few holidays up in Scotland I can safely say that A River Enchanted nails the atmosphere completely. It can be dark and dangerous but also magical and breathtaking and Ross uses her unique and brilliant magic system to show this. Cadence is almost in a world of it’s own, one of the last places in Scotland to remember and revere the Folk. Thanks to a curse put on the clans years ago the Tamerlains of the East live on a bountiful land, in full harmony with the spirits, but their magic comes at a cost. Weavers can weave secrets into Plaid making them near indestructible, Dagger’s can be forged with enchantments making them truth-telling, or poisonous to the touch, but in the East enchantments come with a price making the user ill, weak and lessens their life span. In the West, however, their magic would come freely and without consequence, but their crops would grow sparse, their water would run murky and their fires would grow weak.
A River Enchanted is filled with folklore and fairy tales and, thanks to Ross’s lush writing style, almost reads like one itself. It’s not a fast paced book by any means, more a meandering tale that weaves through different POV’s, drip feeding you Scottish Lore as well as little hints as to who exactly has been taking the children and the impact that will eventually have on the story. It’s a story that is incredibly hard to put down, not because it’s filled with plot twists (although there are a few shockers in there) but more because it just envelops you as a reader, transporting you to Cadence, so you can’t help but get invested in the characters and their outcomes, and I simply never wanted it to end.
One thing I loved about this book is all the different kinds of romance’s that Ross graces us with. Our main romance with Jack and Adaira is a frenemies to lovers, built on a kind of grudging mutual respect and wondrously slow burn. But with Torin and Sidra she shows us a couple already married, but only just ready to love each other as openly as they want, both scared of how the other will react if they veer from the norm and show their true feelings. There’s also a kind of forbidden romance that I can’t talk too much about but I’m really hoping we will get to see more of it in the second book. But the main thing that runs through them all is respect, some of these characters couldn’t be more different: a bard and a heiress, a fighter and a healer, but they respect each other and the roles they play and it just made me fall a little in love with them all.
I think it’s safe to say that I loved this book. It contains all of my favourite things: folklore, unforgettable characters, frenemies to lovers romance and atmospheric and lush writing. This is my second book by Ross and I will definitely be searching out her backlist because I have loved everything I’ve read so far… now the torturous wait for book two!