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What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez
Young adult

What the River Knows

by Isabel Ibañez

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Quick take

If you’ve ever identified with Indiana Jones, you must read this lush and fantastical romp through 19th-century Egypt.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Puzzle


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical


  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest



Bolivian-Argentinian Inez Olivera belongs to the glittering upper society of nineteenth century Buenos Aires, and like the rest of the world, the town is steeped in old world magic that’s been largely left behind or forgotten. Inez has everything a girl might want, except for the one thing she yearns the most: her globetrotting parents—who frequently leave her behind.

When she receives word of their tragic deaths, Inez inherits their massive fortune and a mysterious guardian, an archeologist in partnership with his Egyptian brother-in-law. Yearning for answers, Inez sails to Cairo, bringing her sketch pads and an ancient golden ring her father sent to her for safekeeping before he died. But upon her arrival, the old world magic tethered to the ring pulls her down a path where she soon discovers there’s more to her parents’ disappearance than what her guardian led her to believe.

With her guardian’s infuriatingly handsome assistant thwarting her at every turn, Inez must rely on ancient magic to uncover the truth about her parents’ disappearance—or risk becoming a pawn in a larger game that will kill her.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of What the River Knows.
What the River Knows


Never say you know the last word about any human heart. —HENRY JAMES


A letter changed my life.

I’d waited for it all day hidden in the old potter’s shed, away from Tía Lorena and her two daughters, one I loved and the other who didn’t love me. My hideout barely stood up straight, being old and rickety; one strong wind might blow the whole thing over. Golden afternoon light forced itself in through the smudged window. I furrowed my brow, tapping my pencil against my bottom lip, and tried not to think about my parents.

Their letter wouldn’t arrive for another hour yet.

If it was coming at all.

I glanced at the sketch pad propped against my knees and made myself more comfortable in the ancient porcelain bathtub. The remnants of old magic shrouded my frame, but barely. The spell had been cast long ago, and too many hands had handled the tub for me to be completely hidden. That was the trouble with most magic-touched things. Any traces of the original spell cast were faint, fading slowly anytime it passed hands. But that didn’t stop my father from collecting as many magically tainted objects as he could. The manor was filled with worn shoes that grew flowers from the soles, and mirrors that sang as you walked by them, and chests that spewed bubbles whenever opened.

Outside, my younger cousin, Elvira, hollered my name. The unladylike shrill would almost certainly displease Tía Lorena. She encouraged moderate tones, unless, of course, she was the one talking. Her voice could reach astonishing decibels.

Often aimed in my direction.

Inez!” Elvira cried.

I was too much in a wretched mood for conversation.

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Why I love it

“Magic had a mind of its own, and no one knew why it leapfrogged, or clung to one object or person, but not the other.”

Anyone who has laid eyes on The Great Pyramids of Giza knows Egypt is a land suffused with profound magic and mystery. Sign me up for any novel that traverses its storied and enthralling history and culture. In her new novel, What the River Knows, Isabel Ibañez beautifully evokes not just this country and its cultural underpinnings, but also tackles the importance of protecting heritage and cherishing the oft forgotten magic hiding in our world.

Inez Olivera is the daughter of two high-society, globetrotting parents. She wants for nothing besides more time with them. Then, one day a letter arrives announcing their tragic and unexpected deaths. As a result, Inez inherits a fortune but also a host of unanswered questions (and a pesky new guardian with an annoyingly handsome assistant). All the available clues point to Egypt so she charters a boat to Cairo to unravel the mystery her parents left behind and start putting together the puzzle…

What the Rivers Knows is a special book. Magic clings to every page of this story. It has a lush and perfectly realized world replete with old-world glamor, strange portents, and trouble around every corner. It also features a captivating cast, most notably its spunky heroine, who finds not only love but her own path in unexpected places. Don’t miss out on the adventure, grab your copy!

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Member ratings (9,365)

  • Megan F.

    Kirksville, MO

    First off, this is book one in a duology which wasn’t advertised well but I’m literally obsessed with this book, it is so good and I am enamored by the world building and the magic system. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Alexandra A.

    Nashville, TN

    I’m sorry, WHAT?! That ending has thrown me for a loop and I can’t wait for the next book. I was hooked from start to finish, never knew who to trust, and now I still don’t know who to trust! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Ellen S.

    Highland Falls, NY

    Oh. My. God!!!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ I loved the detail given to Egypt and its history. The cliffhanger on this end of this book kills me! I’ve already preordered the next book (it’s a duology)

  • Kate A.

    Highland Park, IL

    I described this book to a friend as “It’s set in 1884, in Egypt, it’s a little bit magic, a little bit Indiana Jones, and a little bit Edith Wharton.” To me a perfect combination. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Stephanie R.

    Asheboro, NC

    I loved this so much! The author completely transported me to 1800’s Egypt, and I didn’t want to leave! The magic, the history, the twists, the romance.. all of it so beautifully imagined! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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