"...ceaselessly brilliant..." The Guardian
Riverkeep is my debut novel. Following a very unusual route to publication (which you can read about here) I realised a number of long-held dreams and ambitions when the book was released to positive critical acclaim. Following its release, I went to New York for the American launch, met some of my writing heroes, was nominated and listed for several awards, and met readers all over the country at festivals and in schools.
According to my publisher, Riverkeep is "an astonishing blend of the literary, the comedic, and the emotionally resonant [which] marks the beginning of a remarkable career" and also a "stunning debut perfect for fans of Patrick Ness and Neil Gaiman!"
Here's the story...
The Danek 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.
Praise for Riverkeep
"The writing is ceaselessly brilliant – stylish, precise, limitlessly evocative of landscape, atmosphere, guilt and terror." The Guardian
"Filled with wild adventure and hilarious dialogue . . . this vivid, engrossing fantasy will delight readers." Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"The quest quickly becomes an intense bildungsroman as darkly comical as it is terrifying and violent. A rich debut: Huck Finn meets Moby-Dick." Kirkus, starred review
"There isn't a single forgettable person, monster, or creature in the whole adventure; it s impossible to not be deeply invested in all of their successes. This is a rare work that feels like a sophisticated, gritty folktale, full of impossibilities and dramatic tension, and it is both hilarious and tragic in equal measure." BCCB, starred review
A unique and distinctive fantasy world, ably conveyed through very readable dialect and buoyed by near-constant action . . . [a]riveting read." Booklist
"With a humorous, light touch and an excellent feel for dialogue, Stewart has created a first-rate fantasy." School Library Journal
"Woven of threads of fantasy and myth, Riverkeep presents something entirely unique and innovative. The constant interjection of humor forms an odd juxtaposition with the seriousness of Wull's quest. Add to that black humor, weird characters and graphic violence, and it is compelling in the same quirky way that Monty Python is. The narrative is both harsh and beautiful." VOYA
"A cracking, startlingly original story. It would be an extraordinary book by any author- but it is Martin Stewart's first." The Spectator
"The fast-paced action is compelling. Students who appreciate well written horror fiction will thoroughly enjoy this novel. This gripping supernatural tale includes adventure, monsters, love and loss, and thought-provoking issues." School Library Connection
"Martin Stewart's atmospheric debut blends fantasy and horror into a rollicking Scottish adventure about fathers and sons, monsters and magic, and the choices that make us human . . . A dark delight, Stewart's riverboat ride should impress teen horror fans and anyone seeking a YA novel with no romance but plenty of heart." Shelf Awareness
Martin Stewart’s Riverkeep stands apart. It’s an extraordinary debut novel... a curious, quasi-Dickensian, quasi-Melville world, held together by the 15-year-old hero, trying to do his best against the odds. Stunningly original. Evening Standard