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Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey


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.

My thoughts

I went into this story with very high expectations which were not only met but exceeded by miles. River of Teeth is one of the most fun stories I’ve read in a while and one of the closest to a “me” book you can find.

He could have been a hero, had he been properly motivated […].

I often struggle somewhat in getting attached to characters in novellas and short stories which is why it is rare for me to give the full five stars but Sarah Gailey made it so easy for me to really care about them all. It only took a few pages and I already knew these would be characters I’ll come to love. This ragtag group of villainous people had me at hello and is the epitome of squad goals.

I especially loved how effortlessly Sarah Gailey created a story rich in diversity. We have queer characters, one trans character using/being addressed by the gender-neutral they/them, some being white, some of color. The greatest thing is how she normalizes it all and how we don’t see them getting shit for who they are (but at the same time showing that it isn’t a perfect world where it wouldn’t ever happen). This group has all around kickass people, each with their own special talents, and that’s what makes them who they are. They aren’t defined by their gender, looks or who they are attracted to.

It also didn’t take long for me to find my favorites and start shipping right away, which was bound to happen, considering all the adorable blushing involved. I was happy to see that this was something happening at the sidelines though, something that didn’t take over the main plot.

As for the actual hippo related caper (sorry, I mean “operation”): this is the kind of western I didn’t know I needed and I really hope to get to read a lot more set in this alternate history. I didn’t know feral hippos could be so much fun, but these vicious beasts brought along some brutal scenes, totally surprising me with the amount of blood flowing and the related body count, making this a story right up my alley. And I kind of want my own hippo now.

If I had to describe River of Teeth with just one word, it would be “fun”. A ragtag group of outlaws making schemes while riding their hippos, having to deal with lies and betrayals as well as with the troubles of their everyday lives (THE FEELS, OMG), this was an explosive debut that I couldn’t get enough of.

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May 22, 2017