river shadows underworld gods

River of Shadows ★ Underworld Gods #1  Karina Halle

River of Shadows - Gods of the Underworld - Finnish Myth Series by Karina Halle

When 24-year old Hanna Heikkinen’s estranged father dies, she reluctantly makes the trip to Northern Finland for his funeral. Being in the enchanting land of ice and snow feels miles away from Hanna’s busy life back in Los Angeles, especially under the complicated circumstances.

But when Hanna discovers that her father’s body is missing, that’s when things really get weird. A mysterious man, Rasmus, tells Hanna the truth: her father was a powerful shaman who went into Tuonela, the Realm of the Dead, in order to barter for more life, and has been held captive by Tuoni, the God of Death. The only way her father can be freed is if she travels with Rasmus into the mythical underworld to rescue him.

Willing to do anything to have a second-chance with her father, Hanna accompanies Rasmus into the dark and bloody realm, traveling via the River of Shadows, stalked by dangerous creatures, monsters, and the living dead, until they finally come into the haunted kingdom ruled by Death and his family.

Only for her to be captured and held prisoner by the God of Death himself.

Turns out Death is intrigued by Hanna’s beauty and fierceness and makes a bargain with her. If she marries him, and spends an eternity in the Realm of the Dead as his wife, he’ll set her father free.

But even the most noble sacrifices come with hidden costs, and Hanna’s might involve the most unexpected of all things: her heart. 

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Kindle Edition 356 Pages ★ Published January 2022

Mythology Books

River of Shadows is an adult dark fantasy romance based on Finnish mythology and the underworld of Tuonela.

Take some Hades & Persephone, add some major Beauty and the Beast vibes, plus a dash of Labyrinth, and a sprinkle of Alice in Wonderland, and you have RIVER OF SHADOWS, a spicy and enchanting HIGH HEAT, HIGH FANTASY ROMANCE with a dark Nordic mythology twist.

Finnish myths

In order to save my father, I have to marry the God of Death.

river shadows underworld gods review


Minor Spoilers

River of Shadows is written by CANADIAN author Karina Halle. I was stoked when I realized Halle was Canadian. River of Shadows opens with Hanna Heikkinen heading to a remote area in Finland for her estranged father’s funeral. I immediately liked Hanna, or more aptly, I liked that Halle gave her such a colourful vocabulary.

Seriously, the word Fuck was used more in the first chapter than in most books. I am a lover of colourful language, always have been. In my world, they are words, just like any other, so it was nice to see a character using them so freely. You should also be aware that Halle’s main character, the lovely Hanna, is recovering from an eating disorder.

If either of these is an issue for you, you should probably stay away.

Finnish myth books

The Finnish Gods of Death

River of Shadows takes off running when the plane’s wheels hit the tarmac, and Hanna arrives in Finland. Halle’s story is quickly-paced. There is no slowing down to smell the roses in The Land of the Dead as Hanna goes on a rescue mission to find her shaman father. Hanna immediately gives her life in exchange for her father’s.

& Death agrees to her terms.

The God of Death, Tuoni, frees Hanna’s father and takes her as his prisoner instead.

I liked Tuoni, and I liked his daughter, Loviatar. I’m hoping to get to know them more in the next book. To get to learn more about their world. Unfortunately, Loviatar and Hanna’s relationship does not start well. Loviatar’s job is to ferry souls to the City of the Dead. When she realizes Hanna is not dead, a fight quickly breaks out and ends in Hanna’s favour. Loviatar is far too curious about Hanna to be mad, though.

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Murderous Unicorns? Sounds great to me.

Being in the land of the dead requires long-lost and forgotten creatures. I don’t often come across unicorns in books, and I especially don’t come across them how I envision them. Not as beautiful creatures of wonder but deadly creatures of death and destruction. Halle even has her unicorn telepathically speak!

Same with the mermaids. Yes, there are talking mermaids too—one the size of a barbie doll.

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Our dear Hanna has no idea what she has gotten herself into. Nevertheless, she thinks she will be able to fool the God of Death into loving her, giving her just enough freedom that she will be able to find a way back to her father in the Land of the Living.

The Uprising

There are whispers of the Old Gods returning among the Land of the Dead residents. They want Kaaos back. To overthrow Tuoni and take back what was once theirs. But there are other whispers, too, of a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. One that Tuoni believes is about our dear Hanna. So after an old relic attacks Hanna, Tuoni moves up their wedding.

I almost wished Halle’s story wasn’t quite so fast-paced.

river shadows underworld gods

I’m all for quick reads. I can always do without seven pages describing trees. I can do without the chapters that contain nothing and do nothing to propel stories along. River of Shadows was arguably, too quickly paced. However, I feel like it was intentionally done. Halle has her pieces on the board now. There is a yet-to-be-released prequel in the works. & River of Shadows ends on a cliffhanger.

Halle has captured my attention with Book One. There is no denying that. Hopefully, she can keep it and slows down the pace for Crown of Crimson, so we get to know the characters a bit more intimately.

Karina Halle book series


A cut that will never heal. A scar for all my life. Right in the heart of me.

Then the green starts to shift, turning purple, then blue while tiny sparkles form and disappear. The crystal seems alive.

I’m starting to feel like we’ve graduated from elaborate cosplaying to a full-on bad acid trip.

It screams again, a sound that I think will haunt my dreams for years to come.

… with its skin peeling away in slices like the cedar trunks, black fungus collecting on its long fingers and toes, and a row of branches poking out of its spine.

The unicorn in the middle is the largest, black as a moonless night, and sitting atop him is Death.

… your suffering will give me energy for the day. I will make you beg for death, and even then I won’t grant it to you, all for my own fucking amusement.

Never trust the living. Never trust a God. And never trust a redhead.

It spears its horn through the skull of one of the children, then whips its head back, its long black mane flowing majestically, as the skeleton child goes flying through the air, landing in a heap of broken bones.

We’re all sinners, little bird. Every one of us. To sin is to be human, to be human is to sin.

It’s like being trapped in a macabre fairy-tale, where bone soldiers and servants haunt the keep.

Karina Halle books


Contains affiliate links.

Some of Halle’s books are available through Chapters/Indigo & Kobo – unfortunately, NOT this series, not yet anyway. Feel free to check out their selection of Halle books below.



River of Shadows is available through Amazon [ here ]

Currently, River of Shadows can be read through Kindle Unlimited [ here ]

Some of Halle’s books are also available through Barnes & Noble [ here ] although, I do not see River of Shadows in their catalogue.


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