Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)" by Sarah Gailey

This is a hippo western. If you don't like the idea of semi-tame hippos let loose in the U.S. as an alternative to the traditional cattle farming in an alt-history West, you probably would be better off finding another book. Of course, there are some likable characters and the plot is decent, but mainly- hippos. You must love them.

About those hippos- the idea for this book came from actual history- here's a Wired article about it. Prior to this book's forward, I'd never heard of such a thing, but as always, I am game to read about books with unusual animals in them. Hippos in real life are one of the most dangerous animals in the world, but in this book, the "hoppers" are somehow able to be tamed. Now that I've fed you sufficient info (that will hopefully prevent you from becoming a hippo farmer), let's get to the meat of the story.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
'Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
'This was a terrible plan.
'Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.'

The most interesting part of this story (other than the hippos) is the characters. That isn't a bad thing, and works for me in most books, but with this book I felt it wasn't quite enough. The plot was interesting enough, but I felt since this is a hippo western, there was a lack of depth to the world. What are the consequences (beyond stray feral hippos) of hippo farming in the U.S.? I get that this is a revenge centered tale, but I wanted more worldbuilding than was on offer. True, maybe the implications will expand with the next book, but I felt the campy Western bits would've been better served in a more nuanced world with a bit more than a spit polish to the plot.

These characters I mentioned- my favorite (by leaps and bounds) was Hero, a black non-binary person who uses the pronoun they. Hero had enough attitude and it wasn't as over-the-top as some of the other characters, one of whom drove me nuts (Archie). Though this book starts with Winslow's perspective, I was glad it switched around because I found him a tad bland. Adelia was the runner up in terms of my admiration- I always admire authors who include pregnant ladies in their adventure novels.

River of Teeth is a novel buoyed by the strength of the subject and characters. If not for the hippos, I can't say I'd have picked this up to begin with as I'm not a fan of Westerns. Though hippos and characters may seem strange strengths to recommend a book on, this one is on the shorter side and doesn't take much time at all to read. If you are intrigued by the concept of a hippo Western, you may want to check out this book.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good hippo-populated adventure.

Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for cutthroat violence, murder, and cut scene sex.

Page Count: 192 pages


  1. Well, you liked this more than anyone else I have come across. Ha ha. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this interesting premise. I think the whole true story connection is wild. :D

    As usual, I will be comment vomiting backwards. And it isn't quite afternoon, like I promised, but I am here!

    1. Well, that's good! I didn't feel like I wasted my time on this one (although at less than 200 pages, I'm willing to read about anything). It would've been a bit of a disaster if hippo farms actually happened- I think they'd need pretty strong fences!

      As usual, I take forever and a day to respond to comments. Thanks for stopping by and comment purging, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle

  2. The idea of a hippo western sounds almost comical. I am not sure this one is for me, although it does sound unique.

    1. It is certainly unique. As I mentioned, you have to love the idea for the book to read well. Otherwise it's probably not for you. :)
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Wendy!
      ~Litha Nelle


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