• River of the Gods

  • Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile
  • By: Candice Millard
  • Narrated by: Paul Michael
  • Length: 10 hrs and 2 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (772 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Buy for $31.50

Buy for $31.50

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

Publisher's Summary

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The harrowing story of one of the great feats of exploration of all time and its complicated legacy—from the New York Times bestselling author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic

For millennia the location of the Nile River’s headwaters was shrouded in mystery. In the 19th century, there was  a frenzy of interest in ancient Egypt. At the same time, European powers sent off waves of explorations intended to map the unknown corners of the globe—and extend their colonial empires.   

Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke were sent by the Royal Geographical Society to claim the prize for England. Burton spoke twenty-nine languages, and was a decorated soldier. He was also mercurial, subtle, and an iconoclastic atheist. Speke was a young aristocrat and Army officer determined to make his mark, passionate about hunting, Burton’s opposite in temperament and beliefs.   From the start the two men clashed. They would endure tremendous hardships, illness, and constant setbacks. Two years in, deep in the African interior, Burton became too sick to press on, but Speke did, and claimed he found the source in a great lake that he christened Lake Victoria. When they returned to England, Speke rushed to take credit, disparaging Burton. Burton disputed his claim, and Speke launched another expedition to Africa to prove it. The two became venomous enemies, with the public siding with the more charismatic Burton, to Speke’s great envy. The day before they were to publicly debate, Speke shot himself.   

Yet there was a third man on both expeditions, his name obscured by imperial annals, whose exploits were even more extraordinary. This was Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who was enslaved and shipped from his home village in East Africa to India. When the man who purchased him died, he made his way into the local Sultan’s army, and eventually traveled back to Africa, where he used his resourcefulness, linguistic prowess and raw courage to forge a living as a guide. Without Bombay and men like him, who led, carried, and protected the expedition, neither Englishman would have come close to the headwaters of the Nile, or perhaps even survived.   

In River of the Gods Candice Millard has written another peerless story of courage and adventure, set against the backdrop of the race to exploit Africa by the colonial powers.

©2022 Candice Millard (P)2022 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Bestseller Millard (Hero of the Empire) recounts one of the greatest 19th-century British colonial explorations in this fascinating history. In 1854, the Royal Geographical Society chose Richard Francis Burton to lead an expedition to locate the source of the White Nile, the longest branch of the Nile River. After one member of his original team died before the journey, Burton hired Lt. John Hanning Speke of the Bengal Native Infantry, an avid hunter and member of the British aristocracy. Tensions between the two strong-willed men quickly surfaced, but Burton was more fortunate in his hiring of Sidi Mubarak Bombay, a formerly enslaved East African, as head gun carrier. While Burton recuperated from an illness, Speke and Bombay reached Lake Nyanza (also known as Lake Victoria), which Speke claimed as the Nile’s source. Burton maintained that Speke had failed to settle the question, but before the two men could publicly debate the issue in 1864, Speke died in a hunting accident. Subsequent explorations, in which Bombay took part, proved Speke’s theory. Millard’s lushly detailed adventure story keeps a steady eye on the racial power dynamics involved in this imperialist endeavor and brilliantly illuminates the characters of Burton, Speke, and Bombay. Readers will be riveted. Illus."—Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Millard, the former National Geographic journalist who took readers down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon with Teddy Roosevelt in River of Doubt, now turns her attention to the exploration of Africa’s Nile River. Europe became obsessed with ancient Egypt in the 19th century following the 1799 discovery of the Rosetta Stone. Britain’s Royal Geographic Society resolved to locate the headwaters of the Nile, aiming to land an expedition on the east coast of Africa and explore inland, amid rumors of a lake region in the central part of the continent. Enter Captain Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, two men with different temperaments and interests, who had already crossed paths during an ill-fated expedition in Somaliland along with their trusted guide Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who was formerly enslaved. Millard sets the stage for their bitter rivalry after they return from their harrowing East African expedition in 1859 and Speke announces he has found the source of the Nile, naming it Lake Victoria. VERDICT It’s been nearly six years since popular Millard published Hero of the Empire, and eager fans and armchair travelers will gladly sign up for this enthralling and heartbreaking adventure."—Library Journal (starred) 

What listeners say about River of the Gods

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    492
  • 4 Stars
    204
  • 3 Stars
    55
  • 2 Stars
    17
  • 1 Stars
    4
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    547
  • 4 Stars
    117
  • 3 Stars
    27
  • 2 Stars
    7
  • 1 Stars
    8
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    453
  • 4 Stars
    176
  • 3 Stars
    52
  • 2 Stars
    16
  • 1 Stars
    8

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Good book by Millard, narrator ruined it

I have read other books by Millard, which I enjoyed very much, and this was another good book, except for one thing, the narrator ruined the book. Had he just read it, it would have been fine. But he tried to do voices for the various people, and it was awful. The WORST British accent I have ever heard, literally comical. He made one person, Speke, sound like he had a speech impediment.

I would suggest you read the book, but skip the audiobook.

Please Ms. Candice Millard, never again let Paul Michael read one of your books!!!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Another winner from Millard

Great work here from Candice Millard, along with a tremendous performance by Paul Michael. I will certainly revisit this work in a couple years and do recommend this book to others.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

River of Gods

I enjoyed this story immensely. I learned about a topic I knew very little. I also quite enjoyed the narrator.

I have not read other books by Millard leaving me nothing to compare, but I am now interested in reading more of her books.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Too much detail

The narrative gets lost in the details. Narrator is weak and his women’s voices are ridiculous. River of Doubt was wonderful. This book was a major disappointment.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book

I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t stop reading/listening to it. It is for my book club group and I was supposed to stop on Chapter 11…oops. Highttly recommend it!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating

Candace Millard never disappoints. This is yet another amazing work, so informative of a subject you thought you knew, but as it turns out, knew little if anything. Not to be missed.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Not my preference

I’m not generally a non-fiction person, so reading this book was always going to be an uphill battle. The narrator did well (though I don’t understand the Elmer Fudd voice for Speke) and the writer is obviously brilliant in her research. However, I thought, based on the description, that this book would be primarily about Bombay. I feel a little misled.
Also, if I never have to return to this that is a good day for me. These men sucked.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Millard is a great writer

Like all her books this one is fascinating, well-written and insightful. Also well read.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Another compelling history by Millard

While not as compelling as some of her other works, Millard links multiple historical figures with their times frequently weaving a story and connections not obvious and very interesting. I thought the narrator was excellent. Unlike some other reviewers I thought his use of accents helped to distinguish direct quotes from the writer’s narrative. Well worth the time.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Strong, but not as great as other Millard titles

This story of Richard Burton and John Speke concerning the search for the source of the White Nile is another gripping tale of the 19th century. The beginning and end are fascinating but it drags a bit in the middle. There is a fascinating epilogue in which Millard places Burton and Speke's racist legacy in context and in contrast to the achievements of Sidi Mubarak Bombay and Tenzing Norgay. There's also a short chronology of the end of slavery in the US and the end of the east African slave trade. Overall, it's a strong book but not as great as Destiny of the Republic or Hero of the Empire.