I’ve been intrigued by this release ever since I heard about it earlier this year. River of Teeth is a western, but with hippos instead of horses. Newcomer, Sarah Gailey takes the idea of hippo-farming to address meat shortages in the United States and adds a tale of revenge. Winslow Houndstooth (seriously, that’s his name!) seeks revenge upon an old colleague that burned down his hippo farm, killing his stock. He enlists a wily bunch to assist him in clearing feral hippos from the waters of the Mississippi, but really he seeks revenge, and this little operation is just a smokescreen, though one which does pay.
I’ve seen this book has been met with mixed opinions, which is good. I really quite enjoyed it. For a novella, the pacing is obviously quick, though sadly at the expense of the development of some of the characters which do offer glimpses of individuality and personality, but ultimately remain unfulfilled. Gailey also uses a rather odd stylistic choice with one of the characters, Hero, who is never referred to as being either male or female. This becomes quite irritating as it drags you away from the story in making you double-check the sentence thinking that there are typos whenever Hero is referred to as “their” or “they”. Weird…
On the plus side, the concept of River of Teeth is great, and though the book acts as a starting point for what is to come in future stories, I did feel there is enough for me to want to read more. The humour is used sparingly, but well, and the Louisiana marshlands provide a humid and intriguing setting. I enjoyed Houndstooth and his companions and I thought the dialogue between them was pretty good too. The hippos are the scene-stealers and all have personalities of their own. The relationships between the riders and the hippos is quite warming, more so than with their human counterparts. The feral hippos in the swamps are vicious and deadly and there are some gruesome scenes where bodies are pulverized, chopped in two, keeping you on your toes.
Overall, River of Teeth is a hell of a lot of fun. It isn’t perfect, but it shows enough promise for it to hopefully become a thoroughly entertaining series in the future.
4/5 feral hippos from the Grim Reader.
Pick up a copy from here.