The Rivers Lead Home Book Review + Interview with Author

“You see, Maki, that’s the thing about the rivers. They’re like the blood-lines in your hands…. If you lose your way, follow the river downstream and you’ll always find your way back.”

In The Rivers Lead Home, Emily Hayse explores new frontiers, digging deeper into the land and the characters first introduced in her award-winning novel Seventh City. This collection of twelve short stories features beloved characters like Maki, Tsanu, Willow, Ransom, Laramie, Rutter, and Jeremiah, as well as introducing new characters like Spruce Norman, Mollie at Heart’s End, and the mysteriously lucky dog-driver Epirvikk Heft. From lazy nights at the Pick and Collarbone to dog-races on the frozen tundra to the adventures of a young mapmaker in the jungles of Havast, these stories are full of laughter, surprises, brushes with glory, and heartwarmingly ordinary humanity.

Some of you may remember my post a year or two ago after reading Emily Hayse’s novel, Seventh City, an Alaskan-inspired fantasy. I was shocked to learn that this book was self-published. The graphic design, content layout, and the story itself were so above my expectations that I was blown-away. Not to mention that the story itself and the way it was written is reminiscent of my favorite author of all time, Rosemary Sutcliff. If you haven’t had a chance yet to read my post on it, check it out here.

At any rate, when I learned that this author, who has since won two awards for her book, Seventh City, was publishing a short story collection based on the world her novel is based in, I was excited. I loved reading that story and fell in love with the characters and setting. (Tsanu still owns my heart, y’all.) Not to mention, a particular song in this book inspired me to put it to music, which you can listen to here. So yes, a short story collection further exploring that world and its characters? Yes please!

Beautiful stories, characters, and prose as always is to be found in Hayse’s books. Thanks to Emily for bringing to life again the world of Seventh City, allowing us to delve deeper and explore more than we could in just the novel. So many favorites, it’s hard to choose from, but I loved Tsanu and Maki’s story the best. The one of Ransom nearly made me cry, and Willow’s story also pulled at my heartstrings. Agh, I don’t know how to put all these feelings into words and do them justice, but if you have read Seventh City, you will love The Rivers Lead Home.

As I usually try to do, I asked the author if she would be willing to be interviewed for this post! As usual, the questions are in bold and the author’s answer in regular type.

1. When did you get the idea to publish a short story collection for Seventh City

It was around January of 2020, I believe. I had already written Tusik’s Folly as a side story, and I got the idea for The Impossible Luck of Epirvikk Heft. I started putting out feelers to my readers around then and got really positive feedback.

Yes, I remember you talking about it on your Instagram stories, asking what we would like to see in a short story from your book! As is typical, I just asked for anything. xD

2. How did each story come about? 

Some of them were ideas that were sparked by references made in Seventh City, like “Follow the Wind”, “The Hero of Chalkanupa”, and “The Man Who Laughed in Death’s Face”, while others like “Tukkuli” and “Ransom’s Last Stand” just came out of my interest and love for the world and characters of Seventh City.

That’s so neat! And definitely giving me ideas if I ever do something similar. ^_^

3. Which story was your favorite to write? 

I enjoyed the entire process, really. If I had to pick, probably “The Rivers Lead Home”, as I really tapped into favorite old stories and childhood memories for that one.

Ooh, that one was my top favorite! Though I may be biased as I love Tsanu and Maki and their relationship. Siblings for the win!

4. Did you have any of these stories in mind while writing Seventh City or did they come afterwards? 

A couple, as I said above, like “Follow the Wind” and “The Hero of Chalkanupa”, kind of came into my mind while I was working on Seventh City, but I didn’t consider writing any of them until well after the book was finished.

That makes sense!

5. Which is your least favorite in the collection, and why? 

What a hard question! If you pressed me, I might say “Death at the Overflow” because I don’t like almost-freezing-to-death stories much, but I really love them all.

I asked this question for a reason, as if you didn’t like those stories they wouldn’t have been published, I don’t think. xD Yes, that particular story made me think of Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” which wasn’t a pleasant experience while reading for the same reason.

6. How would you describe The Rivers Lead Home’s aesthetic? I know that many of your stories take place in different locations, so this one might be tricky. 😉 

I would describe it as having a strong survival/frontier aesthetic with a heavy focus on nature and the will to survive. Weather and land and hard decisions factor into most of the stories.

I can definitely see this.

Now last, but not least…

7. Would you ever consider doing another short story collection at any time? And, if so, what would it be about? 

I would, though I don’t currently have plans for any. At this point, I’d say it might fall into historical fiction as most of my short stories and novellas I have lying around are that genre, but who knows, Rivers was only about eleven months from idea to publication.

Ooh, I’d love to see you do historical fiction! And wow, that’s a short time!

Thanks so much again to Emily for letting me interview her. If you would like to check out The Rivers Lead Home on Goodreads or Amazon, the links are below!

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