Chardelia Foss and the River of Fear is an engrossing romantic mystery thriller set in a gothic school in the North East of England.
Fifteen year-old student Chardelia is growing up too fast. Her hometown Amberleigh, a small seaside community, is being threatened. Riddled with dramatic cliffs, gothic castles and abbeys, scenic waterfalls and rivers, picturesque cobbles and lanes, Chardelia would do anything to protect Amberleigh. What is worse, she has a secret none of her classmates know about, as well as a concealed crush on Danny Canterbury. However, Danny is infatuated with Janna Chisely, and too busy to notice Chardelia.
When best friend Amanita Walmer starts a school newspaper in her ambition to be a journalist, Danny struggles with how he can make himself seem worthy to Janna. But as sinister episodes shake the school, the adolescent Danny finds himself at the centre of a destructive plot involving first dates and trigonometry, bombs and mysterious underground caverns. As teachers around Amberleigh begin to mysteriously disappear and die, and explosions rock the school in an apparent terrorist attack, Danny becomes increasingly fascinated by the enigmatic Chardelia. Can she help him rescue the truth? How close will Danny come to understanding Chardelia’s true feelings before it is too late? Who is perpetrating the attack within the school? Faced with saving Janna or Chardelia, who will Danny choose?
Amid the terror of moonlit dances, first kisses and swimming lessons, comes terror of a wholly unexpected kind. Chardelia Foss and the River of Fear is a startling debut that marks the pain of first love within the often dark skies of school.
Point of view:
Small parts are written in 1st person, I think they were supposed to be Chardelia, but I honestly couldn’t tell. The rest was 3rd person. Except, that it sort of vacillated between being 3rd person subjective to Danny and then there would be intermittent sentences where we’d get glimpses of other characters thoughts & feelings that Danny couldn’t possibly know. This was a bit disjointed for me as a reader and gave the book an unpolished feel.
Parts of this were really good and engaging. Some parts didn’t make any sense or I struggled to understand what the point was. I think the “blurb” does this book a disservice because as a reader I was anticipating certain things based on that and they never came about. It also makes it sound like the book is about Chardelia, when it’s not really. 90% is Danny. I imagine that some people actually DNF this book because it could be described better. (Edited to add, I went to share this review on Bookbub and I like that blurb MUCH better!)
The “set-up” took nearly 70% of the book. It kind of rambled and meandered and the author didn’t manage tying all of it up back in at the end.
⚠️ SPOILER ⚠️
Danny has sex with Anjalie and the very next day she’s out of school at a doctor’s appointment to learn that she’s pregnant. Danny thinks he might be the father. What? Haven’t these kids had sex-Ed. You don’t get a positive pregnancy test 12 hours after sex. So she ghosts him for a bit and then says it’s not his. And THEN, skipping to the end of the book, after being told all year he isn’t, she says that he is. And he’s super calm and “OK”. I’ll love you and I’ll love the baby and then nothing is said again.
⚠️ END SPOILER ⚠️
I don’t know what the point of Robin Vernal was. Is there going to be another book where she comes back or something, because her leaving town and Danny’s visions of her feel dropped into the story for no reason.
We don’t meet Chardelia until at least halfway through the book and even then it’s a sentence there or there. There’s a party at her house, but even there she’s a minor/background character.
⚠️ ⚠️ SUPER DUPER SPOILER ⚠️⚠️
Because we don’t really know Chardelia, it’s hard to feel sad when she dies. I don’t AT ALL understand Danny stating he loves her. They exchange like 5 sentences with each other.
⚠️⚠️ END SUPER DUPER SPOILER ⚠️⚠️
There’s a compelling mystery in here ~ but it’s so bogged down by pointless minutiae that it is hard to keep track of. Oddly enough, while the book felt too long at some points, it actually could have benefited by being *longer* where the details related to the murdered and the castle secrets were concerned. I wanted to know more about the ring. I wanted to understand this mystical river ~ was it magic? was it some deadly natural formation? It’s in the title, but it’s barely explored.
It’s not all bad. I sort of loved Danny. He was just this normal 15yo living his life the best that he could with all these hormones, feelings, and thoughts. Trying to make sense of all these other teenagers with their hormones, feelings, & thoughts. While thrown into the insanity of having their teachers killed.
The action at the end was good, but again, I wish it had been fleshed out more and we could have spent more time enjoying that suspense.
About the author:
Dominic Jericho is a writer of adult and young adult fiction. He’s been writing stories since before he was a teen himself. He started with a pencil on a scruffy notepad before rapidly buying up multiple packs of empty exercise books so he could fill them with ideas, lists, concepts and illustrations. He now writes all his novels on a shiny new laptop, which unfortunately has the annoying distraction of an internet connection.
You can connect with Dominic Jericho here: