Author: Martin Stewart
Source/Format: First to Read; eARC
More Details: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Viking; July 26, 2016
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Synopsis from Goodreads...
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...
As I was reading Riverkeep by Martin Stewart, I had one thought in mind: eh, this is okay. That feeling remained until the end. It had its high and low points, but by farmthe book wasn’t a bad story. And as far as fantasy novels go, Riverkeep was pretty good, a little slow at times, but still alright.
My initial reaction to the beginning was a little mixed. It wasn’t a bad opening, but I struggled to stick with the story and I almost gave up. However, I stuck with it out of sheer curiosity, and the desire to get answers for the questions I had.
Riverkeep was more of a coming-of-age story set against a fantasy backdrop full of perilous places and even more dangerous creatures. And despite the introduction of numerous characters, and the multitude of POVs throughout Riverkeep, the focus was really on Wull—following him as he struggles against change, and discovering where he belongs while dealing with a slowly unfolding personal tragedy.
There was a lot of traveling in Riverkeep since the characters had places to be for important reasons, which made the story drag in some places. However, the dialogue and slowly developing friendships between the characters is part of what got me through those parts. I was also curious to see how the story ended since the beginning set up a relatively strong conflict.
As promised by the synopsis, Wull met a lot of different people from different backgrounds, and under different circumstances. I won’t go into too much about them since it would be kind of spoiler for parts of the story. The things I liked best about Riverkeep were some of the secondary characters. The Mormorach was a key part of Riverkeep. It was a “great sea-dwelling beast” going about its business—albeit oversized and with a destructive tendency that bordered on absurd. It served as one of the antagonists, a source of conflict amongst the many outside factors that eventually concerned Wull.
Another thing I liked was the setting. It was done really well. It was dark, cold because of the time of year, and harsh—especially the river. It gave the story an eerie atmosphere, which was pretty fitting. The overall plot wasn’t bad. I actually liked it, and the ending was pretty good too since it neatly tied up the story.
So, while my initial reaction to Riverkeep was mixed, I am glad that I stuck with it.
This copy of the book was provided by First to Read (publisher) for this review, thank you!