June 28, 2016

ARC Review of Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

Release Date: July 26, 2016
Publisher: Viking
Page Count: 416
Format: ARC
Genre: YA/MG
The Danék is a wild, treacherous river, and the Fobisher family has tended it for generations—clearing it of ice and weed, making sure boats can get through, and fishing corpses from its bleak depths. Wulliam’s father, the current Riverkeep, is proud of this work. Wull dreads it. And in one week, when he comes of age, he will have to take over.Then the unthinkable happens. While recovering a drowned man, Wull’s father is pulled under—and when he emerges, he is no longer himself. A dark spirit possesses him, devouring him from the inside. In an instant, Wull is Riverkeep. And he must care for his father, too.When he hears that a cure for his father lurks in the belly of a great sea-dwelling beast known as the mormorach, he embarks on an epic journey down the river that his family has so long protected—but never explored. Along the way, he faces death in any number of ways, meets people and creatures touched by magic and madness and alchemy, and finds courage he never knew he possessed.
*an ARC of this book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review*

I was a bit hesitant when I first started reading Riverkeep as it seemed more a MG title than a YA one and I don't usually read those. However, it sounded really interesting (and the amazing cover didn't hurt either) so I decided it couldn't hurt to read it and started. After finishing I can say with certainty that despite being MG it was really good and might even be one of the best MG books I've ever read.

When it comes to books, world-building and settings are everything for me; mess those up and you also mess up the book. The start of Riverkeep was a bit slow and it didn't seem like the river would have much in the way of descriptions but as it progressed and we saw and learned more about the river during Wulliam's journey I started enjoying it more and more. Later on the city of Oracco was also shown off a bit but the majority of the story took place outside of it, I wouldn't have minded a bit more on the city. The world-building wasn't too big in Riverkeep (mostly the river and Oracco) but the quality in writing was more than enough to make up for it and provide me with a very enjoyable experience in reading the book.

Riverkeep featured several characters although the main character is Wulliam who is next in line to become the Riverkeep (tending to the river and taking dead bodies out of it basically), the book is based around his journey down the very river he tends to in pursuit of a sea creature who can heal his ill father. Along the way several other people join him like Tillinghast the homunculus and Mix the stowaway. This group journeys down the river, occasionally stopping and running into forces like creatures and people who want to stop them. It was a bit confusing when the characters were first being introduced since they all got separate chapters but once they met up and started traveling together it became much more smooth. I loved the characters, that's the easiest way I can put this. Sure, I thought they were a bit odd at first but as their journey down the river progressed they became a team and I really enjoyed reading about their travel. However, I wouldn't have minded some background information on them (like how Tillinghast found about the mandrake, the first burial of the baby, and Pents story). Riverkeep may be a MG novel but its contents felt much more mature and developed, to the extent where someone who reads YA mostly like me was able to read and enjoy it.

I'm not sure whether Riverkeep is a standalone but I really really hope a sequel is made, there's so much more left in the story and we haven't been told what happens to the other half of their group at the end. I can see a lot of potential for many more adventures for Wulliams group and I for one would happily read all of them. I would suggest anyone who enjoy fantasy check Riverkeep out, even if you don't like YA normally; you might just end up with a fantastic new read like I did.

4.5/5 - Really good book

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