Review: ‘Rivers Run: Elemental Keys Book 1’, by Lynne Cantwell

Rivers Run: Elemental Keys Book 1 by [Cantwell, Lynne]

** Review originally prepared for ‘Big Al and Pals’ **

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Description: Raney Meadows is an actor in a long-running TV series. It has all become a bit much for her, so she takes a leave of absence to hike part of the Appalachian Trail and clear her mind. Unfortunately, on the Trail near Harper’s Ferry, she finds a body in the River Shenandoah. But the victim did not drown. How does she know this? She is half Undine – a water Elemental. The goddess Shenandoah exhorts her to cleanse the river waters of this violent death. The plot quickly thickens. Three more half-elementals make themselves known – earth, fire and air. That seems like a quorum … and, indeed, they have been brought together to prevent a great and ancient evil re-emerging.

Author: Lynne Cantwell has been writing fantasy fiction since the second grade, when she made a picture book, illustrated by the author, about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks. After a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or, she says, perhaps despite the master’s degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy. She is also a contributing guru at Indies Unlimited.

Appraisal: I should nail my colours to the mast at the outset here – I love Cantwell’s work. I even love her romance, despite my lifelong aversion to the soppy kissing genre. Her Goldilocks writing style provides everything the reader needs to know and keeps the pages turning, turning, turning. It is her liberal use of what Cantwell refers to as ‘the woo-woo’ that sets her fiction apart and endears it to this reader. What is the woo-woo? A frisson of magic and spiritism that is always at the heart of Cantwell’s work. Sometimes – as with her ‘Pipe Woman Chronicles’ – there are whole pantheons of deities in play. Other times as with the standalone Seasons of the Fool and this first book in her latest series, the fey aspects are essential but more lightly couched.

In this book we learn what it is to be part Undine; about Harper’s Ferry and the Appalachian Trail; the other Elementals are introduced and developed, and the first part of the plot is brought to a satisfying conclusion. However, much remains to be resolved as the series unfolds. I look forward!

I happen to know that Cantwell put this out in a bit of a rush, and it does show (in my Kindle edition at least). However, then she lays down a sentence like this, “Her mournful rasp sounded like the barest trickle of moisture in a desert creek bed.” And minor imperfections are quite forgiven.


Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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