ARC Review: Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

review         book

Book Covertitle: Song of the Current
author: Sarah Tolcser
pages: 373
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 8/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, The Reader by Traci Chee, and other subtle, adventure-driven fantasy.
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.

in depth

  • Song of the Current was every bit as thrilling and absorbing as I'd hoped it would be. Nautical adventures can be iffy for me; I love watching pirate movies, but for some reason, pirate books are hit or miss. This was a definite hit, with so many scintillating elements. There's a biracial female MC who kicks ass without shunning traditional femininity; a snarky, swoony male costar who defers to Caro; a host of intriguing side characters; and an immersive world with a Grecian flavor and subtle layers of the fantastic. In a word: phenomenal. 

  • The characters are this book's personal strength. Caro is a fabulous heroine. She commands every page she's on with a mixture of spunk, skill, and brashness. Her combo of dark skin and red hair is seen as unusual, but not negative. In fact, she's hailed often for her prowess and cleverness. Markos is a perfect foil. He starts out snarky, spoiled, and somewhat useless, but takes in the information around him and changes his behavior accordingly. There's also EXPLICIT CONSENT and a subtle romance that doesn't overpower deeper loyalties. Can we have more, please? 

  • Even though it's set up as an isolated girl-boy adventure, it ends up having prominent, memorable side characters. There's a slew of unique women. Kente, Caro's cousin, who's fierce and instrumental, not just a cameo character. Caro's mother, who isn't maternal but isn't painted as evil for it. Fee, the reticent frogwoman, who needs to be like 100% more present because she's hysterically critical of Caro's stubbornness. And on the male side, Caro's father is a nurturing, supportive caregiver. They all could easily have their own books, which I think is the best mark of well-drawn secondaries. 

  • The writing is, for the most part, absolutely beautiful. It's clear and dazzling as fast-moving river water, with breathtaking descriptions of scenery and cinematic fight and escape scenes. It would make a stunning movie. There were a few nitpicks. "The language of small things" was repeated WAY too often to be impactful anymore. Also, there were moments I was getting absolutely bogged down in unfamiliar nautical terms. Like, it doesn't help to tell me you're sparring the boom shaft because it means nothing, and my eyes glaze over. Thankfully, there was enough rousing adventure and snarky banter to keep me chugging along. 

  • What really rounds this book out is the world. Tolcser paints a globe in broad strokes, then narrows in with fine details on the Riverlands and their nature gods, Akhaia and its politics, the mechanics of sailing and trade. It gives the illusion of a vast world without being overwhelming, and feels magical and immersive. Everything is grounded in mysterious elemental magic, age-old myths and systems of worship, customs and slang. It's a world that feels bigger than this book, a world I can't wait to return to. 

  • If you want an exciting watery adventure with subtle romance, layered fantasy, and multifaceted characters, you're going to adore Song of the Current as much as I did. 

in a sentence

Song of the Current is brilliant, an exciting watery adventure with subtle romance, layered fantasy, and multifaceted characters. 


will i read this author again?  YES   
will i continue the series?  Um, literally as soon as I get my hands on it  

Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


  1. YES YES YES. Literally this whole review. LOVE this book & dying for book 2!