Fact or Fiction? Now that’s a fantasy novel!

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Top: Photo via PublicDomainPictures.net (Rajesh Misra) under Creative Commons license Bottom: Photo via Wikimedia Commons (Nyttend) under Creative Commons license

Aaron Starmer brings the fantasy world of Aquavania and the hidden evils that lurk there in his novel “The Riverman.” The book focuses on Alistair Cleary as he must discover a way to save his neighbor Fiona from the evil creature called the Riverman that wants to steal her soul.

Dana Gould, A&E co-Editor

We’ve all read books in which the bounds of reality are questioned and we, as readers, must determine what is real and what isn’t. Aaron Starmer’s fantasy novel “The Riverman” does just that, except this time the characters testing the waters of reality aren’t detectives, cops, or mentally disturbed, but two pre-teen neighbors.

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary is just an ordinary boy attempting to get through middle school, until the not-so-typical girl next door, Fiona Loomis, comes to him with a strange proposition. Fiona wants Alistair to write her biography.

At first, Alistair believes listening to Fiona’s tale is simply a means for her to get the attention she seems to be lacking or as a way to brag about herself. As soon as Fiona begins relaying her tale, however, he realizes that is not the case.

Fiona tells Alistair of a portal in her basement that transports her to the magical world of Aquavania. A world in which its inhabitants’ wildest materialistic wishes come true and creativity and stories themselves are born. Yet with every supposedly perfect thing comes a terrible cost. In this supposedly enchanting world, is a creature called the Riverman that steals the souls of children and Fiona believes she is next.

In this exciting, intriguing novel, that adds a fantasy appeal to the idea of growing up, Alistair must separate fact from fiction. For if Fiona is lying, she is simply unhinged, but if somehow she is telling the truth, or at least a version of it, she is in critical danger.

Alistair must separate fact from fiction. For if Fiona is lying, she is simply unhinged, but if somehow she is telling the truth, or at least a version of it, she is in critical danger.”

— A&E co-Editor Dana Gould

Throughout the novel, both the characters and the reader must separate reality from fiction. This adds an extra dose of suspense as no one truly knows if Aquvania is real or a means of escape for Fiona. The novel is already a classic who-done-it mystery as the reader and the characters try to discover who the Riverman actually is, adding yet another intriguing factor to the book.

The first section of the book is a little slow, as the characters are still being introduced and the plot is being laid out for the reader. Eventually, the author finally gets into the meat of the novel and things begin to pick up as Alistair takes action against the person he deems the Riverman.

Throughout the novel, the author also uses tiny details that the reader may not necessarily acknowledge that play a greater role later on. This provides readers with that “ah-ha” moment as the light bulb turns on and the reader realizes how clever Starmer actually is.

Overall, this book is definitely worth reading, although it may not be something to add to the top of your list. While the plot, characters, and the scenario created are well-done and developed. there simply are better fantasy novels that may be more pressing than this one.