This is an impressive debut. A richly imagined fantasy world that is presented with confidence, full of vivid detail and invention.
Wulliam is the son of the Riverkeeper. On his sixteenth birthday he will become the Riverkeeper in his turn. It is not a prospect he welcomes. When tragedy strikes and his father is possessed by dark spirit, Wulliam embarks on a journey fraught with incident and danger in a desperate attempt to find a cure.
It is somewhat invidious to present the reader with comparisons, and I would certainly take issue with those provided on the cover of this novel. However, the author can certainly claim an association with the imagination of writers such as Philip Reeve or Frances Hardinge. His world is presented complete. There is no attempt to describe it. The reader opens the first page to step into the world of the river complete with its own dialect and vocabulary. The plot is dense and complex, there are multiple narrators to draw all the strands together. Characters are eccentric and extraordinary, none more so than the homunculus Tillinghast, who will fast become the most memorable of them all, and whose realtionship with Wulliam is central to the story.
It will be interesting to see if Martin Stewart continues with this River world or moves on; a voice to listen for.