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Martin Stewart Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Riverkeep (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Sacrifice Box (2018) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Martin Stewart is an author of young adult fantasy books famously known for his debut novel, Riverkeep first published in 2016. Before turning into writing full-time, Stewart worked as a recycling technician, barman, university lecturer and an English teacher. It was during this time as a teacher that he got inspired into writing novels targeted for young adult readers. As a writer, Stewart is interested in stories that take place in shadowy places, stories that explore tensions between fear and laughter. When not writing, you will find Stewart spending time with his beloved wife and daughter, or running on the beach with his dog, cooking with eggs, watching favorite movies, or listening to podcasts and trying to make the perfect Old Fashioned.

Riverkeep

In Martin Stewart debut novel, we are introduced to Wulliam, a 15-year-old young man who has been raised with the knowledge that he will one day be expected to take over his dad’s work as a Riverkeep. A Riverkeep is entitled to looking after rivers and fish out bodies in order to give them a dignified delivery from it liquid embrace. However, one day, when Wulliam’s father is reaching down to pull out a body from the waters, he is taken over by an evil spirit. So when Wulliam discovers that a mormorach, a great sea beast might possess a cure for his dad’s pain, he sets off down the river to seek this beast.

Along the way, Wulliam meets creatures and people touched by alchemy, magic, and madness; he faces death in a number of ways and finds the courage he never knew he possessed. Riverkeep is a brilliant coming of age fantasy novel set in a world that is both full of wonders as well as threatening. Seeking to find a cure for his father’s afflictions, we are able to see Wull on every step of this adventure. The novel features several instances of poetic, magical descriptions and moments. As a Riverkeep, one is tasked with keeping all the waterways free of ice during the winter and getting rid of the dead bodies. Wulliam abandons his post as a Riverkeep letting it freeze for the first time in thousand years and his only hope it to get his dad to the sea, then hunt and kill the sea monster whose bodily fluids are said to have healing powers.

Along the frozen river, Wull meets and hesitantly accumulates some hangers-on. First, he crosses paths with Mix, a young girl with a gift for thievery who seems very easy to like. Then he also meets a man who is made of herbs, straws, consciousness, and skin that provides the most of the comic relief with some of his oddly placed knob jobs. There is Remedie, a witch on the run, cradling her wooden baby. These and other characters make the narrative an interesting one. As they make their way down the river and far beyond Wull’s usual territory, they encounter several obstacles, monsters, and other hostiles and are forced to rely on the unique skills of one another for their basic survival.

If you have read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, you will note the close resemblance between to Riverkeep by Martin Stewart. Mr. Rigby and Mr. Pent the duo assassins hired by the whining Mr. Rigby bear a close resemblance to Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup from Neil’s book.

Something that makes Riverkeep standout from other Young Adult fantasies is the world building aspect. Even though fictional, Stewart has woven a story that feels as real as a contemporary book, a multidimensional and fleshed out. The characterization is as well brilliantly done, even the characters that seemed to appear for a few seconds and then disappear are as just as robust as Wulliam, the main character. The story is also rich in description and action. Even though Wull suffers a lot in this novel, not only physically but also emotionally, he never stops punching a bag. His main qualities as the main character are a strong sense of humor, stubborn and persevering. Tillingast is a wonderful sidekick- he is strong man stuffed with straw- he comes out with some funny and saucy comments that make the story quite intriguing to read. Stewart masterfully executed the banter between Wulliam and his gang, and this wonderfully cements the team together.

The Sacrifice Box

Five friends, (Arkle, Sep, Hadley, Mack, and Lamb) find an ancient box deep in the forest. They make a sacrifice to the ancient box, something special and commit it to the box forever. They also make a pact that they will never ever return to the sacrifice box at night, never take back the commitments, offerings and never return visit it alone.

Four years down the line, the five friends have meandered apart, and then a series of mysterious happenings take place and it at that time Sep and his best friends realize that someone has broken the truce they made years ago. Their sacrifices begin haunting them one by one with increased hunger and violence; they discover that they are not the first people to have found the box. Moreover, the box may require the biggest sacrifice of all, one of them.

The Sacrifice Box is a wonderful standalone book by Martin Stewart. The characterization is wonderfully done, with each character out of the five friends given enough time to develop. The novel is set in the 1980’s kicking off in 1982 when these five friends made their promises and sacrifices, then fast forwarding in 1986 but with a couple of flashbacks dating to the 1940’s to the days when original sacrifices were made. Martin Stewart has a great way of creating vivid descriptions- ranging from scenes, characters and the settings- that captures reader’s attention.

The Sacrifice Box is somehow reminiscent of Stranger Things, IT, Stand By Me capturing the essence of every single detail in the story. Each character in the story is beautifully crafted, realistic and relatable in some ways. Sep is the main character, he is loyal, intelligent and also brave and therefore narrating the whole story through his eyes adds a much emotional kick.

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