Review: Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Rating: 5 stars
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: young adult fantasy
Format/Source: ARC, from the publisher
Status: Book 1 of the Song of the Current series

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Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

Song of the Current is the third novel I'm placing on my best of 2017 list (the other two being Geekerella & The Upside of Unrequited). I am absolutely wholly unconditionally and irrevocably in love with this book (lol). I stayed up until almost 1 am to finish this book. I could NOT put it down! And for those of you who don't know, that's a big deal. I'm in bed around 11:30 every single night like clockwork.

Okay, so you can see the basics of why I love this, but I want to talk a little more in-depth because you know I never stay with just basics. First of all, pirates. There's a veritable treasure trove (pun intended) of recent pirate books, but what I like about Song of the Current is that the pirates are RIVER pirates, which mean they stand out (#notlikeotherpirates). The mechanics of sailing a wherry in a river vs a sea-worthy vessel like your more typical schooner or frigate (yes, I finally looked up the different kinds of sail-powered ships; don't judge me) was absolutely fascinating. Plus, the setting was fairly unique. Unlike on the sea where there's not often lots of land around, Caro & crew were never more than a few hundred feet from shore and frequently hopped among all the river towns. It made for a nice change of scenery throughout the book as they sail to different small backwater towns and eventually to larger, more extravagant cities.

I really like the characters. Caro is a stubborn girl who loves her dad and her life and is desperately trying to both follow in her father's footsteps and save him. She is also biracial, and I found Caro's family dynamics really intriguing—her dad is a river wherryman content with a slower pace of life while her mom is a ballsy businesswoman who is basically head of the family. Tarquin is, admittedly, a pampered, privileged prat for a significant portion of the book, but he absolutely grows over the course of the book, and I appreciate that. I can handle a character who is a bit of a douche as long as they display change, and Tarquin absolutely does. And my favorite part of it is that while the two of them are still getting to know one another and use each other to achieve their means, the snarky dialogue is at its best! When Tarquin finally grows up, though, *shivers* he gets suuuuuuper swoony. And he's a great big brother, which I always love.

One thing that really impressed me about Song of the Current is how it contains so many small details that realistic fiction always seems to execute a little better than genre fic does. Caro's struggle trying to follow in her family's (her father's side of the family, anyway) footsteps felt like a contemporary novel, as well as the adorable weirdness between her parents because no teen, living or fictional in any genre, can deal with their parents kissing and... you know, other stuff. Also, there is EXPLICIT CONSENT during sexy times, plus Caro's mom, who is not very maternal, has a mini sex talk with Caro. It's not a long moment, but she tries and she assures Caro that if she needs help, she can always go to her mother. Both of these things I see frequently in realistic stories but rarely in speculative fiction, and I would very much like to see that changed. This book is proof that you can add moments like these without ruining the mood. If anything, it made it BETTER because both parties wanted what was happening and they each were assured by the other's feelings.

"Caro? Yes?"
"Why do you keep asking me?"
"Because. I made a mistake that other time. I don't want to do it again."
(ARC, page 343)

*sings Hallelujah chorus* *does happy dance* *shoots off fireworks*

Look, this YA boy/man is a complete IDIOT earlier in the book so the fact that he understands CONSENT and ASKS FOR IT EXPRESSLY and can TELL THE GIRL WHY IT'S SO IMPORTANT TO HIM is, quite honestly, astonishing and fantastic. This guy basically goes from the basic level YA fuckboy to the super evolved YA Love Interest as if he's a Pokemon, and honestly, I'm here for this kind of character development. Can we PLEASE have this in more books?!?!?!

In a phrase: fantasy river pirates. This book is fun, adventurous, and full of snark. It's got a bit of a slow start, but the pace ramps up to a spectacular finale! This book is mostly, I think, about Caro and Tarquin discovering themselves. There are enough hints toward bigger events and a bigger world (so many interesting politics! Shadow magic! River and sea and whatever else gods! A F*CKING DRAGON!) that have me keeping a weather eye on the horizon for book 2!

Purchase Links:

About the Author:
Sarah Tolcser lives in New Orleans, where she wrangles iPads and rogue computers at her day job. A graduate of St. Lawrence University, she double majored in writing and philosophy. She enjoys video games, NBA basketball, and books about girls who blow stuff up. She is married, with three cats.

Sarah writes young adult fantasy and science fiction. She is represented by Susan Hawk at Upstart Crow Literary.

The C in Tolcser is silent.
Author Links:

I met Sarah a few weeks ago on the Boldly Bookish Tour in Austin and snagged a signed copy to pass along to one lucky reader!

Open to US & Canada. Entrants must be 13+. Giveaway is open until 12 AM CST July 11th. Please enter via Rafflecopter below; winner will be chosen at random, and odds are determined by number of entries. I reserve the right to disqualify any entries that are not in accordance with my giveaway policies as stated in the Review & Site Policies tab at the top of the page.Good luck!

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  1. OOh nice review! I had been hesitant about this one at first, but now I feel as if I must read it! I love a good pirate story! I still want to read Daughter of the Pirate King too! I think my favorite pirate will always be Captain Jack Sparrow! Great review!

    1. Thank you! I wasn't sure what to expect when I got a copy, but I'm so glad I picked it up. It's fantastic!

  2. Oh, I definitely want to read this one. I have heard really good things and I love books about pirates. Awesome review! Now I want to read it even more.
    Cassi @ My Thoughts Literally

  3. My favorite pirate is Riden from Daughter of a Pirate King.

  4. I've had too many favorite pirates in books I've read to mention just one...though Colton Hayes from Lisa Kessler's Sentinels of Savannah certainly got my blood pumping. So... I'll mention Jack Sparrow. He has redefined pirates in the movies.

  5. IT'S SO GREAT, I'M SO HAPPY THAT YOU LOVED THIS ONE TOO. I fell in love with Sarah's dedication to this world.

  6. Soooo I haven't read A Gathering of Shadows yet (just finished ADSOM) but I get the feeling it's going to be Lila Bard!

  7. Favorite pirate has got to be Jack Sparrow! It does not get better than that.

  8. My favorite pirate is Jack Sparrow or Alosa from DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING!

  9. I really enjoyed this one too!! I still must read Geekerella

    Oh and counting this as an entry for your IG giveaway. You know I follow you everywhere lol

  10. Ugh pirate books make me wanna go find me one! I am soooooo going to read this soon because I need to know more about Tarquin after reading your review!! I have DOPK too so I guess August will be Pirate month for me... Yaayyy!
    Manasa (IG: @literary_lost) Thanks also for hosting the amazing giveaway! I subscribed and glad I did!

  11. Great review! I have been looking for a summer book with pirates. ;)
    Also thanks for the giveaway from your Blogoversary. I follow via bloglovin' IG: Cali W.