Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

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Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Highly original fantasy debut with a great central character. Subtle, organic worldbuilding and a clear authorial tone on sexism, classism and racism are very welcome and don't interfere with the rattling pace of the narrative.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1408889005

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Caro believes she is destined for the river. So why hasn't the river god whispered her name? How much longer must she wait for the Old Man to do it? So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested by the port authorities, Caro volunteers to transport a secretive cargo in order to win his release. Surely now the river god will call her? But impulsive Caro may have bitten off more than she can chew: the cargo turns out to be more than she expected, and she is drawn into a life and death political struggle in a world far removed from life aboard her father's wherry..., there is an annoying and arrogant boy called Markos. What does a girl like Caro do about a boy like Markos?

Oh, I loved, loved, loved this story. Firstly, I loved the subtle, organic worldbuilding, which always shows and never tells. There are no tiresome infodumps or exposition passages and yet you enter Caro's watery world with it fully-formed, vivid and interesting. I had no idea how much I would enjoy a girls on boats theme and it's thanks to the clever worldbuilding that I did. The same subtlety also makes its way into a clear authorial tone about sexism, classism and racism. The book refers to Caro's mixed ethnicity, sexual consent and classist snobbery but never in a preachy way and always as a natural part of the narrative. Full marks for this.

I fell in love with Caro's first mate, Fee, who is a frogperson. Again, there's no tiresome exposition about her, she's just there, fully-formed, interesting and unexpected. And the idea that the river folk communicate with their river god in the language of small things. And that the river folk have a developed cant all of their own. I'll be saying current carry you as a greeting, a farewell and a benediction for weeks. But of course it's Caro you'll be rooting for. Caro, who isn't sure where she belongs. Caro, who loves her family despite their faults. Caro, who will risk her own life to save a child's. And Caro, who will respond to a sexual advance by a social superior by pretty much saying Eh? Consent, please. And yes, kissing is cool but WHAT DO YOU THINK I'D DO WITH A BOYFRIEND ANYWAY? Ha. Go, Caro!

I am a reviewer and, enthusiastic as I am about Song of the Current, I do have a duty to nitpick as well as gush. It isn't a perfect book. Some of the plot twists are telegraphed a little too heavily and some of them just appear out of nowhere with the ground insufficiently prepared. And Markos's political journey from snob to democrat is underdone. I realise that it's Caro's story first and foremost but I would have liked more attention to this. There. Nitpicks done. And honestly guys, these really are nitpicks. There is just so much to like about Song of the Current that you won't even think about them as you're reading.

If you're looking for a new fantasy series that isn't set in a cookie-cutter world you've read about a dozen times before, or you want a fantasy story with a romantic subplot that doesn't fall into gender stereotypes, if you want something to read that feels new and fresh and original, then Song of the Current was written for you. And you. And you. Because I know that the yous here are legion.

Other fabulous stories with a watery theme include Dark Life by Kat Falls, in which prospectors are colonising the ocean bed after global warming reaches crisis point, and the wonderful, lyrical Ingo sequence by Helen Dunmore about a girl who is part mermaid, part human.

Buy Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser at

Buy Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser at


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