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Martin Stewart

Fifteen-year-old Wulliam is dreading taking up his family’s mantle of Riverkeep, tending the river and fishing corpses from its treacherous waters. But then everything changes. One night his father is possessed by a dark spirit, and Wull hears that a cure lurks deep within the great sea-beast known as the mormorach. He realizes he must go on an epic journey downriver to find it - or lose Pappa forever.


The Danék River has always been there, like a dark and silent third member of Wull’s little family. For years, Wull’s father has taught his son the arts of the Riverkeep – how to tend the lamps and keep the surface clear of ice, and how to fish out dead bodies. Then, one night, the Danék takes another victim: Wull’s father is dragged under, only to return a changed man. Slowly the realisation dawns on Wull that the thing that came back is not his father. Now Wull must set out in search of a way to bring his real father home.

With its dead bodies and evil spirits, you might be forgiven for thinking that Riverkeep is a horror story, and there are definitely a few hair-raising moments. But the world Martin Stewart has crafted makes for a rich, fantasy epic brimming with imagination and life. Time and time again I was reminded of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, since both share the same scope and originality. If you have a reader aged 12 and up who enjoys the challenge of an excellent speculative tale, don’t pass this one by.

Holly Harper is a children’s bookseller and author who blogs for the Readings website.

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