The Jericho River [review]

The Jericho River by David W Tollen

The Jericho River flows through a magical world shaped by myth and history. Young Jason Gallo sails the river on a dangerous quest to rescue his estranged father. He battles minotaurs and pirates, flees barbarians, stumbles into mummies’ tombs, and outwits fairies, philosophers, and scientists. Along the way, he finds love and betrayal, faces the legacy of a broken family — and flees a hidden foe who threatens all he holds dear.
But Jason’s tale is more than an adventure story. The river flows like a timeline, carrying the young man through historic lands — Sumer, Babylonia, ancient Greece, Medieval Europe, Napoleon’ empire, and many others — all in chronological order, tracing the history of Western Civilization, from its Middle Eastern origins to the modern era. Professor Gallo, Jason’s father, is a historian, and his notes outline the journey, revealing the truth about Cleopatra, King Arthur, and the fall of the Roman Empire. He explains how Snow White began as a goddess and why Eve was created from Adam’s rib, as well as the origins of coffee, the cat, chivalry, the Internet, Atlantis — and much more.

The Jericho River: A Novel About the History of Western Civilization

My Review]

The Jericho River has, at its heart, a really great concept: making history come alive for readers in a fictional story that involves time travel, as a way of taking the reader through many centuries and countries.This really does brings ancient history alive for YA readers, which I am fully behind!
I could tell that it was a book aimed at YA readers though in its language and general storyline, which I didn’t feel was that strong. To be honest I would have preferred the narrative to stick to Jason encountering real life (or realistic, anyway) events in history as opposed to weaving in the myths as well, and characters such as Zibdu the half lion man- but each to their own, I know many people who I know would have loved the mythical element to the story!
I loved the footnotes at the bottom of many of the pages and almost enjoyed them more than the story; they gave interesting facts and information about history and explained how some of today’s inventions, language and general customs came about. The footnotes were written as if taken from William Gallo’s (Jason’s dad) lectures. For example, one explains how the we got the word satyr and how it came from Classical Greek dramas.
I really liked how other religions are included in an unbiased way, and are shown as just as important as Christianity, which I think is important to young readers. Other countries are also highlighted for the importance they’ve played in historical events and discoveries, and I loved reading and learning more about this- it made me realise how little I know about some of these times in history!
I particularly enjoyed reading about ancient Persia, as I am half Iranian, and about the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment in the late 17th century. I did struggle at times to keep engaged with the story and characters- there were a lot of names and people (though really that’s to be expected in a story such as this that spans so many years).
I would recommend this book, particularly to YA readers who want to read a story that will not only teach them about history but present it in an entertaining way.
[Rating: 3.5/5]
* Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review *

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