If L. Frank Baum and Neil Gaiman wrote a book together, it’d be Martin Stewart’s “Riverkeep.”

RiverkeepI know some people hate to compare books to big-name authors and initially, when the hype around this book started, I doubted it would hit the mark.

However, now that I have completed this novel, I completely understand the hype.

“Riverkeep” combines the adventure, companions, and journey of “The Wizard of Oz” with the dark, eerie and somewhat sinister tone of Gaiman’s works.

The story follows Wulliam Fobisher, who — when he turns 16 — will take over duties of Riverkeep of the Danék from his father.

One night, not long before his birthday, Wulliam’s father is pulled under the river and when he returns, he no longer is himself.

When Wulliam reads of a mysterious beast on the coast that might be the answer to his father’s ills, he sets off down the river.

Along the way, he meets many strangers who join him on his quest.

I really enjoyed the overall story presented in this novel and while the pacing was a bit slow at points, the plot more than made up for it.

It touches on difficult subjects such as familial duty, death and doing what is right.

The characters all were interesting. The villains were particularly intriguing and I would like to know more about who they were working for.

A couple of the secondary characters’ storylines are left unresolved, which I hope means this simply is the first in a new series because I really would like to follow those storylines further.

While this novel is begging for a sequel, it can be read by itself and still be complete.

Fantasy fans and those who love Scottish lore will love “Riverkeep.”

I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads and I’m eagerly wait to see what Stewart creates next.

On a completely aesthetic level, I have to say that “Riverkeep” has one the most intriguing covers I have seen in years.

It will be released July 26 by Viking Books for Young Readers.

About the author

Martin Stewart previously has worked as a recycling technician, university lecturer, barman, golf caddy and English teacher.

A native of Glasgow, where he still lives, he enjoys buying books to feed his to-be-read pile and combining the city’s urban splendor with walks on the beaches of Scotland’s west coast. “Riverkeep” is his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @martinjstewart.