Book Review: The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

Posted March 24, 2014 by Kara in book review, Kara / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Riverman by Aaron StarmerThe Riverman by Aaron Starmer
Series: The Riverman Trilogy #1
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on March 18th, 2014
Genres: fantasy, middle grade
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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Alistair Cleary is the kid who everyone trusts. Fiona Loomis is not the typical girl next door. Alistair hasn't really thought of her since they were little kids until she shows up at his doorstep with a proposition: she wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into the mind of a potentially troubled girl. Fiona says that in her basement, there’s a portal that leads to a magical world where a creature called the Riverman is stealing the souls of children. And Fiona’s soul could be next. If Fiona really believes what she’s saying, Alistair fears she may be crazy. But if it’s true, her life could be at risk. In this novel from Aaron Starmer, it’s up to Alistair to separate fact from fiction, fantasy from reality.

I think whether or not you will enjoy The Riverman depends on what kind of a reader you are. If you are a reader that likes to not know what is going on the entire time you are reading a book and be constantly guessing from beginning to end, and then even still at the end not get any answers, this book is for you. I hate to be a Negative Nancy, but that is seriously what reading this book is like. I feel bad because two bloggers I trust absolutely loved it, but this review is going to be kind of whiny. Before I completely get started though, you should know that it’s not all bad. There IS a lot of good here too. But for me, The Riverman ended up being unbelievably frustrating and unrewarding. Alas.

The Good:

  • The writing is lovely. Simply lovely. The tone of the book is unsettling and I felt uncomfortable, which, depending on who you are, is a good thing or a bad thing. But I give credit where credit is due, and books that make me feel things are books that end up being memorable. There is nothing worse than reading 300+ pages of words that make you feel like you wasted your time. Though I had issues, I definitely feel like my time was not wasted here.
  • The characterizations were fabulous, including the world of Aquavania which I considered a character all its own. I grew quite attached to Fiona and Alistair, and quite heartbroken when things don’t go so well towards the end. The other character I loved was Charlie’s older brother Kyle. It’s odd how quickly you bond with characters when you are sucked into a book and forgetting the world around you. One moment you can be just meeting them, and then the next minute you feel as if you have known them forever. Since I read this book all in one day, it happened even faster.


The Not So Good: 
  • The book was a serious downer for me. It was depressing! Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing if I had known it was one of those books ahead of time. But based on the blurb, I was expecting more of a middle-grade fantasy that was a bit more whimsy than this. This had all the darkness of Alice In Wonderland but it was even more isolating than that and it put me in quite a mood. Books do that to me sometimes, and considering that I was also frustrated by the way it ended, well this book left me feeling confused and kinda pissed off, to be honest.
  • Ambiguous endings. Some readers love them, and some readers love to be shocked. I like answers. I don’t like getting to the end of a book and finding that there is not a full story arc there. Some would disagree and say that there was a full story here, but I can’t say I feel it was complete. There was no finish. It was left open ended and it was meant for the reader to think and wonder, but now I have to wait for the second book in what I believed was a standalone. I am not pleased. 
So in the end, I am left feeling conflicted. I loved the creativity and the world building. Obviously I loved the characters. But there is nothing I dislike more than a book that leaves me feeling frustrated and unsatisfied. I know that I am in the minority, and I know that most readers are probably going to love this one. But I am who I am, and this book was just what it was. I am unsure if I will stick around for the next installment or not, but I am thinking probably not.

2 responses to “Book Review: The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

  1. Ambiguous endings don’t usually work for me either. It leaves my brain contemplating for days and I usually get so wrapped up in trying to figure out what happened I can never get into another book. Good to know how dark this one is too, I was also expecting a Narnia/Alice type fun, exciting fantasy. I think this is one I’ll be holding off on reading until there are more installments available to read. Great review though, Kara. 🙂

  2. I am also conflicted about this one for all the same reasons as you. The end was so annoying for me. It felt like such a cop-out. I only found out today that it’s going to be a series, and I still feel the end was a cop-out. I don’t like feeling frustrated and like I wasted my time when I get to the end of a book, and this one made me feel both.

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