The Riverman

Volume 1 in The Riverman Trilogy

"To sell a book, you need a description on the back. So here's mine: My name is Fiona Loomis. I was born on August 11, 1977. I am recording this message on the morning of October 13, 1989. Today I am thirteen years old. Not a day older. Not a day younger."

Fiona Loomis is Alice, back from Wonderland. She is Lucy, returned from Narnia. She is Coraline, home from the Other World. She is the girl we read about in storybooks, but here's the difference: She is real.

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary is her neighbor in a town where everyone knows each other. One afternoon, Fiona shows up at Alistair's doorstep with a strange proposition. She wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into a clearly troubled mind. For Fiona tells Alistair a secret. In her basement there's a gateway and it leads to the magical world of Aquavania, the place where stories are born. In Aquavania, there's a creature called the Riverman and he's stealing the souls of children. Fiona's soul could be next.

Alistair has a choice. He can believe her, or he can believe something else...something even more terrifying.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014

PB ISBN: 9781250056856, HC ISBN: 9780374363093


"An ominous awareness of loss flows all the way through Aaron Starmer’s riveting and sophisticated novel for younger adolescents…There is plenty of surprise, though, and it resides in almost everything else that happens in this emotionally complex tale…The story of what follows…unfolds with disarming naturalness, yet every page feels so carefully written that, although we can’t predict what will take place, we feel certain that the author knows exactly where he is taking us." – Wall Street Journal

"Starmer weaves his fictional cloth out of gritty realism (there is a great dare scene) and sparkly fantasy, holding the whole together with lovely, careful language." – Newsday

"The Riverman is a delightful and surprising first installment of a new trilogy that should have broad appeal. This novel has humor, action, emotion, and an eerie, unsettling premise that is never quite absent from the reader’s mind. Things that matter are at stake. This book takes itself seriously in exactly the right sort of way: It is unflinching in asking honest questions and confronting dark moments." – Christian Science Monitor

"Lines between reality and fantasy blur in this powerful, disquieting tale of lost children, twisted friendship and the power of storytelling." – Kirkus Reviews (★ starred review)


"In this dark, twisting tale, readers are never sure if Fiona’s story is true or not, and they won’t want to stop reading until they find out...this magical tale is sure to please readers of urban fantasy, and with its theme of missing children and changing friendships, it will be perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint, too." – Booklist

"This novel built of stories yields nightmares...This writerly, chiaroscuro book is replete with the portent of violence, and thick with ideas about the  psychological need for stories, all while questioning the ability of stories to redeem the tellers. Readers will find themselves confronted with deep, unanswered questions regarding the relationship of collective imaginary worlds to reality, the evolving nature of memories and friendships, and the unknowability of people. Those ready to explore darker realities will devour this book." – School Library Journal

"Somewhere between Holly Black's Doll Bones and Nova Ren Suma's 17 & Gone in audience and tone, this blend of magical realism and mystery blurs the line between reality and fantasy, setting up a creepy unease that both disturbs and propels the reader forward...the deliciously tangled web of a plot defies categorization." – The Bulletin of the Center For Children's Books (recommended)

"Starmer explores the relationship between creation and theft, reality and fantasy in this haunting novel...the novel's strength is in the pervasive aura of unknowing that Starmer creates and sustains." – Publisher's Weekly

"There is a lot to ponder and recommend in this unusual tale." – VOYA Magazine

"Every culture has a magical river story. Some rivers promise the pleasures of eternal youth, while others promise the paradise of eternal salvation. The Riverman promises a more exhilarating alternative. Dive into this book and you may never resurface." – Jack Gantos, Newbery Award-winning author of Dead End in Norvelt

"It’s like Mr. Starmer wrote this manuscript and then relentlessly hammered on the backspace key until only the most compelling elements remained.  It makes scores of books seem ponderous by comparison. The plot moves along nicely, but there’s excellent writing as well. Emotions and relationships feel honest. Characters are memorable. The setting is well-delineated. The creation of mood is off the charts ." – Travis Jonker, School Library Journal's "100 Scopes Notes" blog


"As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the best of 2014...Once everyone’s read it, I’m going to have SO much more to say. A good book does that. It gives your tongue wings. The Riverman may creep you out and make you want to hide under the covers for a good long while, but just TRY to set it down. Can’t be done. And that is what I look for in a book." – Betsy Bird, School Library Journal's "Fuse #8" blog