I seem to be at a perplexing standstill with this book. On the one hand, it is a superbly written and beautifully crafted book, full of wonders and woes, magic and might, and has elements of some great literary pieces in there. On the other hand, I don’t like it. At least, not as much of one as I probably should be, given how much I appreciate the book and Martin Stewart’s writing.
Let’s just get to the review, shall we.
One thing for sure is that Stewart played off many other stories and writers. An obvious one being The Wizard of Oz. Another glaringly obvious one is Moby Dick.
As I pointed out in my last review, on Six of Crows, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in this case, I feel like Martin has used other works far too heavily for inspiration and has created something rather unoriginal.
And another thing that bugs me the story is that it seems to have no point to it. Wull, the central protagonist of Riverkeep, goes on this amazing journey full of wondrous people and grand adventures, but it all amounts to nothing. This is possibly the most anti-climactic book I have ever read.
On a more positive note, Martin’s writing is poetic and vivid and paints a great picture of the world he has created, albeit using other people’s worlds to do so.
The language he uses reflects well the dark, gloominess of the story, and he matches his vocabulary perfectly with the time and place in which the book is set.
Having said that, the dialogue he uses is extremely annoying. I get that not all characters are always going to speak in a manner you would want them to, but, damn! The characters’ dialects in this book are the most annoying I have ever had to read. I genuinely nearly put the book down a couple of times because of it.
I also felt that, at times, Martin got a little carried away with his writing, coming off not as smart and well-read, but pretentious and pompous.
I am assuming that Martin wished to leave his book with a sense of mystery about it, ending it how he did, but what he actually did was leave a bunch of loose ends that leave the book incomplete, and the reader (me) feeling unfulfilled with said reading.
Something else that I found with this book, and this may be just me, is that it took me a rather long while, a few chapters or so, maybe more, to even realise what was going on and to recognise where the book was heading. Later in the book, I ended up not paying very much attention to what I was reading, because even though there was a lot going on as the story progressed, I didn’t find any of it compelling.
A lot of what happened seemed unnatural, even for a fantasy book, like a lot of what happened would never actually happen the way it did.
Having said this, I must give points to Martin for creating emotion in me as a reader. For the most part, I was neutral toward the book and all the inhabitants of its pages, but one scene in particular, and one character stood out for me. I won’t say what happened, nor name the character in question, but I will say that I was left very shocked and surprised, in a good way, after the scene; and after what happened with said character, I almost wanted to cry.
I definitely disliked more about this book than what I favored of it, but it did have its good times, and most certainly deserves its merits for Martin’s writing.
All in all, I would say it is a good book, but I personally did not like it. An acquired taste, for sure.
I would recommend this to the older side of the young-adult audience, and fans of classic books, in particular.