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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  330 ratings  ·  115 reviews
When things go bad at home, sisters Eleanor and Mike hide in a secret place under Eleanor’s bed, telling monster stories. Often, it seems those stories and their mother’s house magic are all that keep them safe from both busybodies and their dad’s temper. But when their father breaks a family heirloom, a glass witch ball, a river suddenly appears beneath the bed, and Elean ...more
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Amulet Books
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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  330 ratings  ·  115 reviews

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The premise was interesting, and I bet that’s what got this book the Andre Norton Nebula Award (“baby Nebula”, basically). The problem was the execution. And as a result I struggled quite a bit to finish this book, and would have abandoned it if not for my Hugo-Nebula reading project this year.
“At home, every time I lost my temper, things got worse. When Poppa lost his temper, things broke. If you can’t control your temper, Eleanor, you’ll be just like him. Momma had said this so many times.”
Apr 21, 2019 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Hi, I'm Fran, the author of Riverland.

Riverland is a portal fantasy about domestic violence. In the tradition of portal fantasies, the fantastic is an adventure to help right a world that has gone somehow wrong. In another way, it is a story about two sisters gaining control over their own narrative, learning their strengths, and rescuing themselves. I'm hoping you'll get to know Mike and Eleanor, Pendra and Kalliope, Dishrag and the Heron, the dreams and the 'mares. It is the book of my heart,
Rachel Hartman
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent, and it will break your heart so hard. Three tissue-box minimum, you have been warned.

This book is about real abuse, and the fantasy we sometimes need to cope with it; about the truth (which can feel more fantastical than the fantasy, almost, because it's SO HARD) being the most powerful magic of all; about siblings saving each other and finding their way out.

Also: Fran can write circles around any living thing, and her prose alone would make this worth the price of admis
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous. Dark. Dread-filled. Beautifully written. Full of terrible truths, different kinds of magic, and the real complexities of sisterly love - and a hard-won hope by the end. To be entirely (embarrassingly) honest, I found it painful to read because ever since I had kids of my own, I've gotten massively stressed by reading emotionally intense kids-in-real-peril storylines. There were parts of this book where I couldn't breathe because I was so personally stressed by my fear for these kids, a ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a hard book to follow. The fantasy part was confusing. The heart of the story was in the love that sisters Eleanor and Mike shared for each other. There is violence among the parents, but the girls find safety for themselves. They both have good friends and there are adults along the way they learn to trust.
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Survivors
Recommended to Alan by: BookRiot; Goodreads
Eleanor and Mike Prine are sisters who live in the oldest house in Riverland, the riverside development—estuarial, even, as it's very close to the sea—for which their father Simon is very close to closing a major land deal.

Riverland is much more than that, though, as the Prine sisters soon discover when the river starts seeping from their cozy nest underneath Eleanor's bed...


"You promised," Momma whispered to me. "But that's never enough."

Although they're otherwise very different books, Fr
Allison Hurd
This was cute. 12 year old me would probably have loved it--it's like the "12 year old girl's story checklist": best friends, ponies, dreams, and magic. A couple decades later, I think it was strong but not perfect.

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)

Things to love:

-The sisters. I love books with caring, close sibling relationships and this one melted right into my heart.

-The world. I really, really loved how Wilde envisioned the dream world
David H.
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I hardly know where to begin with this book. On the face of it, it's just a portal fantasy where Eleanor and her little sister find their way into a land of dreams. The narrator comes from an abusive house (mostly emotional), and the author does an incredible job in making me believe not only Eleanor's feelings but also her own self-delusions when it comes to the state of her own family. Now I just want to go home and hug my kid. Truth can be hard to commit to. I'm glad Eleanor did. ...more
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-paper
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

My reaction to this book is deeply personal. From its opening passages, which I found excruciatingly familiar, I felt a kinship with the rituals of safety- the house rules, and the magic that these rules invoke for making a fragile home "peaceful." Anyone who knows what it is like to not be able to explain to a friend why they can't come to your house, especially without advance planning.
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A middle grade book that will break your heart and put it back together again. Wilde takes on the difficult subject of domestic abuse — mostly emotional, with a bit of physical abuse as well — with grace and sensitivity, wrapping it up in a portal fantasy concept. My heart broke for Eleanor and her little sister Mike as I watched them internalize the guilt and shame and rationalize away their father's behavior. Their behavior is very accurate for that age range, and I have no doubt that this boo ...more
Apr 03, 2019 added it
Shelves: sffh, mg-fic, read-in-2019
A touching story about two sisters growing up in a house where "house magic" always fixes the things that get broken in their father's rages... until it doesn't, and the girls must find their own powers. I especially liked their growing relationship with their grandmother, and the hopeful but realistic ending. A good book for readers who like stories where reality and fantasy sit side by side. ...more
C. S.
Dec 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, fiction
Like Alice in Wonderland but with actual emotional stakes.

This book tackles a lot of heavy topics, and the sense of dread that lives in the girls' house is palpable through Wilde's evocative writing. Interwoven through this and Eleanor's difficulty in navigating the relationships both within her family and without, is the magic.

I like how Wilde uses a technique where she never gives you anything at face value for free; you end up working for it, and you end up thinking about the story even when
Lovely, subtle. The internalized blame and control are really excruciating and very true — Eleanor is complicated in ways that seem human and honest. The magic is evocative and lived-in, and I like the ways the magic and the real do and don’t interact, the ways in which assumptions about magic and its rules don’t necessarily hold true. It’s a beautifully layered book: it embodies its themes as well as exploring them.

I feel like this book is particularly thoughtful, about truth and asking for hel
Kevin Hogan
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A hard read in places, but very well done.
A.C. Wise
Dec 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Riverland begins with sisters Mike and Eleanor hiding under Eleanor’s bed, telling stories. Their stories are a form of escape from a house where things break, where there are raised hands and raised voices, and telling anyone about family business and “bringing trouble” is the worst offense imaginable. Their stories are also a wish, and a form of magic. They are a way of understanding the world; in stories, they can safely say “one day, our real parents will come for us” and never have to direc ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book. This book deals with a difficult subject with grace and without sugar coating the reality of the struggle and challenges the main character faces. The ending pulled at my heart so much that I started reading from beginning again as I too wasn't ready to leave the secret world that Wilde had carefully crafted. ...more
Jeremy Brett
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Riverland is a glorious addition to the fantasy ouevre of Fran Wilde, who has already given the world works of fiction -both long and short - that are singular in their beauty and depth. Her latest book, the YA novel "Riverland", is beautifully written, emotional, and fierce in its portrayal of sisterly love as a source of strength and renewal. Wilde has given her whole heart to this story, and it shows in so many ways - in the psychological strategies of children to survive and cope in an abusi ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, fantasy, depression
I started reading this book right when it arrived and lost track of time and was almost late for an event. I finished it the next day...but then I had to sit with it for a bit before reviewing it.

It's intense and heartrendingly beautiful. The title and cover are not misleading - the overall impression of the book is water and wetness; in many symbologies water represents emotions, and it almost always represents life. That's true in Riverland - the family at the heart of it represses both emotio
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Check out this review and others on my blog

A middle-grade portal fantasy about two sisters from an abusive family. I didn’t know they made kids’ books this emotional. Great book, and very heartbreaking at times. At the surface it’s a portal fantasy with a whole new world, but the main theme of the book is domestic violence and emotional abuse. I don’t read a lot of middle-grade, so I really didn’t know they made them so emotional.

The other books in this post were fun and pretty
Jan 01, 2019 added it
Shelves: read-in-2018
A beautiful book. Creative, compassionate, heartbreaking, and eventually heart-healing. This is a vivid fantasy novel that will appeal not only to fans of magic but also to readers like me, who love character-driven realistic novels most, because the rich relationships between sisters Eleanor and Mike and their friends and family members are at the heart of the book. It’s an especially empowering read for anyone who’s ever feared they have something ugly or shameful deep inside themselves (which ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to be able to read an advanced copy of Riverland. It was amazing. I am a fan of Fran Wilde's writing, and I think this is her best work yet. The characters and story are very compelling. It was one of those books that I read and read until it was done and then I was sorry I had read it so fast as I didn't want it to be over. While this book is "middle grades," I found it to have enough brilliance and emotional content that adults will enjoy it, too. It deals with hard things, ...more
Alex Acks
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and heart-healing.
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, portal
Heads up for domestic violence but: this is one of the best books I've ever read. It cracked my heart. Or, rather, shone a light through the cracks already there. ...more
Fafa's Book Corner
Mini review:

Trigger warning: Mention of bad temper regarding the MCs father. Up till the point I read.


I received this E-ARC via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I was really looking forward to reading this book! Unfortunately I didn’t like it.

To put it simply I started losing interest while reading. I couldn’t wrap my head around the beginning and while I wanted to read more, I couldn’t bring myself to.

I still recommend.

R. G. Nairam
Jan 10, 2020 marked it as to-read
Shelves: trauma
I had to return this before I could get through it, but I very much want to read it.
Kat  Hooper
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Will review at
Tsana Dolichva
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Riverland by Fran Wilde is a portal fantasy book for children (aka middle grade). I first encountered it during a reading by the author at Dublin WorldCon last year. This year, I finally got around to picking up Riverland after it was shortlisted for the not-a-Hugo Lodestar Award and hence was included in the Hugo voter's packet.

Riverland is not exactly an easy and relaxing read. It follows twelve-year-old Eleanor and her younger sister Mike, as they deal with an abusive family situation and per
Lori Holuta
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I went into the story knowing in advance that aspects of our protagonist's home life might be difficult to read. Fran Wilde has managed to sensitively show us what it's like to be children living in an abusive home. Eleanor and her little sister 'Mike', aren't brave little Pollyannas - these kids have been badly damaged, but they aren't yet completely broken. Their challenges are immense and seemingly impossible. But Eleanor has a strength that's somehow grown from her conviction that she's wort ...more
Terry Graybill
Jul 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kids age 10 and up
Shelves: read-2020
Sisters Eleanor and Mike live in a magic house. That sounds good but there are rules and they must be obeyed or bad things happen. And bad things are happening. The girls, hiding from an abusive father under one bed, accidentally slip between worlds to Riverland, a dream world, where things don't work as they do here. Riverland has a large central river which is leaking into the real world, along with nightmares (actual horses). Their family is charged with keeping the boundary safe between the ...more
Kelly Anne Blount
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A magical read that touches on the very real=life topic of domestic violence. While Riverland is aimed at the middle grade reader, the content is also extremely relatable and appropriate for young adult and adult readers. This book shows the real life consequences of living with abuse in the home and as the writer shares, she hopes her work will be accessible on a bookshelf for those who need it most.

The author is a skilled writer and I enjoyed the flow of the story. The plot is solid and I loo
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Fran Wilde writes award-winning speculative fiction and fantasy. She can also tie a number of sailing knots, set gemstones, and program digital minions. She reads too much and is a friend of the Oxford comma. Her short stories appear in Asimov's, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Uncanny, and

Fran's debut novel, Updraft, was nominated for a 2015 Nebula Award, won the 2015 Andre Norton Awar

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