In her beautifully written and fiercely imaginative middle-grade novel, debut author Shana Targosz delivers an utterly original take on Greek mythology that’s a tale of friendship, sacrifice, and an incredibly nuanced portrayal of grief for a younger audience.
RIVER OF SPIRITS
by Shana Targosz
Simon & Schuster, Spring 2025
(via Writers House)
Senka lives between the realm of the Living and the realm of the Dead. As ward to Charon, the Ferryer of the Underworld, Senka assists Charon in ferrying recently departed souls across the river and into their afterlife. Although Charon has mentored her, and messenger-raven and tutor Mortimer has taught Senka a bit about the realm of the Living, there’s so much about the Underworld Charon has been keeping from her. Senka knows Charon forbids her from straying too far from their home (it’s Rule number five in the Rules for Ferryers, after all), and though she doesn’t understand why, she listens—there is nothing she wants more than to prove she can be a model Ferryer.
When a young boy’s soul gets yanked away by the river’s current, and when the boy’s living sister, Poppy, arrives in the Underworld and pleads for Senka’s help to find him, Senka is literally dragged downriver, far from everything she’s ever known. Lost in the Underworld, Senka and Poppy encounter malevolent spirits of lore and eccentric ghosts—and not all are willing to let souls slip through their grasp.
But the Living can’t stay in the realm of the Dead for long, and there are only three days until Poppy’s soul will also become lost to the Underworld. Senka must utilize everything she has learned in order to save Poppy from a fate worse than death. As Poppy and Senka dodge angry demigods, hungry wraiths, tricksy shape-shifters, and terrifying dragon chimera, Senka gets closer and closer to learning the truth of her own past. Soon, Senka won’t just need to save Poppy’s life—she’ll also need to save her own. . .
Shana Targosz is an Oregon Literary Fellow and the recipient of the Edna L. Holmes Fellowship for Young Readers. An alumni of Author Mentor Match (#AMM), she is a former Pitch Wars mentor and current AMM mentor, and has been a guest host on Grace Lin’s #kidlitwomen podcast.