River of No Return – Bee Ridgway

Sorry for the radio silence the past week, everyone; I’ve been doing things around town now that I’m home for the summer and haven’t been online very much lately. To make up for it, today I’m going to post a better (as in higher rated) review than I have been!

Bee Ridgway’s River of No Return came out in 2013 and I was lucky enough to receive an ARC for review, courtesy of Goodreads’ First Reads program. It was my very first ARC from Goodreads, so I was excited and jumped on it when it came in… and I loved it. It was a great experience that earned it a full five stars and I’ve been eagerly awaiting more in this universe since I finished it. (I’ll post my review of the prequel soon.)

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Find an updated version of my original review below.

I have always found time travel to be a compelling genre, but it’s a difficult one to manage: it can get convoluted and messy; and paradoxes can be overwrought, heavy handed and difficult to enjoy. So when an author manages to integrate time travel into a setting well it’s definitely a pleasant surprise that can make a good read all the better. This is especially true of a debut novel, when the author might still remain unpolished. What I’m trying to say is that Bee Ridgway does a great job, especially for her first book. While the time travel is under-emphasized, that makes it easier to use it effectively, weaving it into the narrative without making it too clunky– save for a few particular exceptions that almost keep this one from a full five stars. But I don’t regret giving it five stars.  It deserves each of them.

Save for some snags here and there, what we have with The River of No Return is, in my opinion, perfectly endearing. The adventure of the story could have taken up less space than it did, to give room for the character drama unfolding, but what we have connecting the pieces includes a lot of charming shenanigans both in the future and in the past. The out-of-place sensation that some of it carried was delightful, and watching Nick struggle with his conflicting times was fun. Even the romance plot (and I am not, as a general rule, a reader of romance) was frankly cute in the protagonists’ interactions.

When a book has me smiling and laughing out loud from time to time, I have to congratulate the author wholeheartedly: so thank you, Ridgway, for that gift.

Aside from the few moments where something like time travel seemed a little overbearing (a minor hint at a spoiler: Rubix cubes? Done excellently. Pinball machines? Disappointing.), I have only a handful of small complaints. I was delighted with most of the characters, and fortunately the one I had the biggest problem with was understated after her first few appearances (and the first one of hers was not as bad as the second). There were some questions left unanswered, though I know Ridgway is working on a sequel. One that I was admittedly originally undecided on. On the one hand, I was attached enough to the characters and their charms that I might wish to see more, and to find out those few things that were left untouched at the end of the novel. Though sometimes a little mystery is nice at the end, a little hint of future (or even past in this case) adventures is great. And there was one minor character who was charming enough and whose fate I want to know enough that it would probably spur me to read the next book Ridgway comes out with.

My main worry was that any sequel might not carry the same charm that made me so affectionate toward this one, but honestly? That’s the sign of a solid first book.

Looking back on this book, three years later, it holds a place as one of my favourites now. I honestly loved it, despite the snags, and I now await the sequel eagerly. When the prequel came out, I jumped on that as quickly as possible–and it even fixed a few of the small issues I had with the original novel. While details on the prequel will wait for another review, I think it merits saying, after reflection, that River of No Return holds up. Whenever we finally have a date set for the sequel, I plan to re-read this first book. I hope, and expect, that this book will charm me a second time.

This book is, in my opinion, underappreciated. If you’re looking for a fun adventure, a charming romance, or a time travel mystery, this book delivers.

Wholly recommended.

This review was originally posted on Goodreads.

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