Rich adventures, a colourful cast, and a fast-paced fantasy…
As a kid, and as an adult, let’s be real, I had a real passion for adventure books. You know the ones. The Phantom Tollbooth, The Golden Specific, or, for that matter, The Hobbit. Someone needs to go on an incredible journey to find something — sometimes themselves — and along the way, encounters wondrous and amazing things, acquires a cast of fun and weird followers, and eats some peculiar foods, because, why not. They’re the original road trip novel, and they’re like catnip to me.
So when Riverkeep (Viking) hit my desk, I had a feeling I’d love it, and I was 100 percent correct — and unfortunately for you, it doesn’t come out until July, so you won’t get a chance to read it until then unless you are very, very nice. (That means there might be a giveaway in this for you.) You are going to love this book too, and so are the young people in your life, because it is a fresh, fun debut with a ton to recommend it.
Wulliam is about to become the Riverkeep, a job he doesn’t really relish taking on, when all hell breaks loose, his father is possessed, and he’s forced to go on a quest to figure out how to cure him. When he sets forth to go far beyond the boundaries of anywhere he’s ever known, he finds a strange, peculiar, and very wide world with more than he could have ever imagined. At the same time, we get bibs and bobs of narration from the point of view of other characters to provide more context for the narrative, so we understand what’s going on personally for Wulliam as well as culturally for the world.
What I love about adventure novels is their naturally fast pace and their potential — at every turn of the river and twist of the path, you don’t know what’s lying ahead. Are traveling companions friends or foes? Are the people you run into actually your enemies, or will they help you? Is a place safe, or treacherous? Everything comes with such high stakes, and those stakes make the reading so much more exciting for me. I’ve been spending the last day or so forcibly dragging myself away from this book to get work done, because I didn’t want to set it down. What if something terrible happened to the characters because I wasn’t keeping an eye out for them?!
Riverkeep integrates mythology, legend, and culture from a wide range of traditions, while still being firmly rooted in fantasy and the adventure novel genre. It’s really well balanced, and while it is fun and designed for the younger set, it has the kind of hard edge I like in my fiction (and enjoyed when I was a young reader, because I may have been 12, but I wasn’t a doofus, and I know how the world worked). This isn’t to say that the book is dark or inappropriate for delicate-minded readers (which, to my eye, don’t actually exist, but I know some parents worry more than others — or certainly more than my father, who didn’t seem to mind that I was reading Anne Rice at ten). It just means that along with the fun, engaging story there’s a little wisp of something else.
Those of us grownups who like middle grade will probably get a kick out of this. If you’re looking for something fun to pass on to a young reader this summer, I’d recommend this. And if you want something to read to your kid on long winter nights, well…pick up Riverkeep and keep it in reserve.
Okay, giveaway time: Two of the books in this post have something in common other than being adventure novels. If you can figure out what it is, you’ll get something in the mail. Maybe this book! Add your guess (or assertion) in the comments, along with the title of your favourite adventure novel.