River of Shadows by Karina Halle Book Review


Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

  Content Warning: Language, Mentions of Rape/Non-Consensual Touching, Sexual Scenes


River of Shadows is a dark fantasy that is heavily based on Finnish mythology. However,I can’t decide whether I like it or not. There were a lot of awkward scenes, convenient plot devices, and a somewhat unrelated main character. Not to mention that it was very fast-paced. A little too much for my liking.


  •  A map!
  • Steamy scenes
  • Finnish mythology


  • Info dumping
  • Too fast-paced
  • Awkward scenes and dialog
  • Unrelatable main character
Tuonela: Realm of the Dead map



River of Shadows had a lot of convenient plot devices, like when Vellamo straight up told Hanna where her father was and alluded that she had some type of power in this realm. Hanna didn’t have to search for answers, they were given to her. This same thing happened when Rasmus was missing when she woke up. 

Instead of Hanna wandering around, having a debate on whether to stay or try to go find him, Telly, a Forest Goddess, was instead right there to provide direction and answers. Even during their trek, Hanna didn’t comment too much on the environment, the animals, or even Rasmus. There wasn’t any urgency and, quite frankly, I zoned out during their travels.

Throughout the book, everything just falls into Hanna’s lap. She doesn’t have to ask questions and solve things herself. Like Bell basically telling her what she had to do to get out of the castle. Why couldn’t Hanna figure that out on her own after a few trial and errors?

Also, while I love a good steamy romance, this didn’t have that. Yes, there was steam— plenty of it!— but I wasn’t buying it. It felt forced and there was no lead-up to it. The plot was also super predictable and really took away any suspense. And I don’t say those words lightly because I’m not one to usually pick up on endings and such.



I could not relate to Hanna at all once she found her father. All of her fight left, as Death mentioned. She became bland and just accepted everything. She hardly questioned anything and just oddly accepted her fate. She hardly had any reactions besides when Death was coming back to fuck her, and we didn’t see any internal conflict about her predicament.

I saw something recently about characters experiencing something traumatic and the author not giving them the time to process or grieve, and this is exactly what happened. Hanna wasn’t shown or given the time to process anything. At the end of the book, we saw a little bit of her thought process and why she reacted the way she did throughout the entire book. But we weren’t shown that. 

I also would have loved to see Hanna before all of this happened. We don’t really get a starting basis for whom she is before being thrown into everything. I mean, she tells us later, but we don’t get to see it. 


Oh boy, where do I start with Rasmus? He was definitely the character to move the plot along through the first half of the book. We didn’t know if we should trust him, what his intentions were, or anything. Hanna just followed him along because she was probably in shock.

He seemed like an interesting character and one that had more depth than our main character, but he was hard to pin down. The scene where he got a blow-job from a mermaid really threw me off. However, after thinking about it, I know 30-somethings that would have done the same thing. 

Then there was his capture and escape from Death that seemed out of character. Like he’s just going to straight up leave Hanna without saying anything? Without promising to come back for her? At this point, he seemed like a real douche, which if that was the intention, then damn. Well done. However, I still have conflicted feelings about Rasmus. Especially after the end. I don’t know if I like him or not.


All I could think about was that Death was like the Devil, the ruler of Hell— brutal, ruthless, and wrathful. But he wasn’t and we weren’t really shown who Death was besides some sex-craved God, so it was hard to think of him any other way. He had zero depth to him and info dumped whenever he could. Like why would you instantly share your thoughts that Hanna could fulfill the prophecy? Why not lead up to that and show us why you think that?

He definitely didn’t come across as caring for Hanna besides being intrigued by her— what? Unique appearance? He only wanted to have sex with her and use their marriage as a political stance. Laaame, but fitting. Because we didn’t see that connection being formed between them, so I can believe his motives more in this case.

After the ending, I am interested in seeing how he’ll react to Hanna being gone and leaving on her own accord.

Side Characters

Bell was annoying af, and her only purpose seemed to be spoon-feeding Hanna her escape plan and ultimately leading to another steamy scene after Hanna is caught out of her room at night. So, I understand that mermaids are more sexual in nature, but she didn’t question how Death treated her. Nor did we see any sadness from her or conflict about her current situation. She fell flat and I was happy to see her go.

Lovia was pretty neat. I enjoyed her after a while, once I got used to her antics. She reminds me of some of my younger, Gen Z cousins. Raila was on my suspicion radar from the get-go. She seemed like she would play a bigger role in this uprising thing, but it was only alluded to at the end. So maybe we’ll find out in the second book?


The dialog is very informal and a bit awkward, especially with the Gods/Goddesses talking like everyday modern people. I didn’t find that too believable. There were also a few proofreading/punctuation mistakes that distracted me in the heat of the moment.

I did, however, love the content warning at the beginning of the book, the Spotify playlist, and the glossary/pronunciation guide. Those things showed me that the author cared about the experience of the reader and wanted to improve upon it. I just wish it followed through in the actual book. 


I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the book, but I was intrigued by it enough to buy the sequel. River of Shadows had so much potential, but it was lost through the fast-paced plot and the excuse to include a sex scene whenever possible. I wanted to see more depth to the characters, I wanted to see more about Hanna’s struggle to cope with being in the Land of the Dead, and I wanted less choppiness/transitions. 

Overall, the book felt like an excuse to write about sex with the God of Death in Finnish mythology. Nothing more. Hopefully, the second book will smooth things over a bit better, but I’m not holding my breath on it. 

What did you think of the book? Did you like it or could you have done without it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Facebook Page  |  Goodreads TBR  |  Spicy Rating Scale | Karina Halle’s Website

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