River Secrets continues the Bayern cycle that Hale began with The Goose Girl. It is another fine novel by Hale, filling in the niche between children's books and YA novels for the older set.
Young Razo is chosen to accompany the group from Bayern that travels to Tira in an exchange of ambassadors. Razo is young, small for his age, and without the skills or the strength that others in the expedition possess. He is a goofy, Bantam rooster kind of kid, with great personal charm, an interest in other people, and unusual powers of observation, but he feels inferior and doesn't know why he has been chosen for this mission.
All of the members of the group are aware of the danger that threatens their mission in Tira (recently defeated in the war with Bayern). Not all of Tira's citizens are over the grief and outrage of their losses, and some are actively calling for a return to fighting.
When Razo discovers a burned body on their journey to Tira, no one is sure who caused the death and their concerns increase, only to multiply when they are actually ensconced in Tira itself and more burned bodies are discovered.
Enna (of Enna Burning, the second novel in the series) is also part of the group. Although she has come a long way in conquering her gift of fire, Razo and Finn worry about her for several reasons: they fear that she is not yet fully in command of her powers, they fear the Tirans discovering that she is responsible for so many of the Tiran deaths during the war, and against their wills, her friends fear that Enna may be the one who has burned the bodies they find.
I loved The Goose Girl and liked Enna Burning, but Razo's personality marks this book in a different way. It is a coming of age story about a rather delightful young man and is lighter in tone (despite the many dangers) because of Razo's outlook on life.
The beginning is slow, and it took me a while to become fully invested in the story, but once there...a pleasure and a very fast read!
Fiction. Fantasy. 2006. 310 pages.