Two Minute Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Sunday, May 14, 2017
Title: River of Teeth
Author: Sarah Gailey
Genre: historical fiction, alternate realities
Series: River of Teeth #1
Pages: 152
Published: expected May 23 2017
Source: ARC via publisher
Rating: 4/5

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.

Some things in real world history are too good to believe and too good to pass up. I don't know how my many teachers got me through all my years of education without informing me of a proposed hippo-farming system in the United States but at least Sarah Gailey came along twenty years later to illuminate how lacking my appreciation for screwball 20th century politics had been. Because as ridiculous as the premise for this novella about feral hippos in the Mississippi River sounds -- it's based on a real plan.

Obviously the magnificent hippo plan never came to fruition and we live a cursed hippo-less life here in America to this day. But thankfully debut author Sarah Gailey has imagined a version of U.S. history where it did indeed get approved, and where it also went horribly wrong, with feral hippos and river lords dominating the river. It's a clever and unique premise, one used to its full potential and it is a gloriously fun adventure. Gailey's briskly-moving story follows the louche but haunted Winslow Houndstooth on his mission ("it's not a caper!") to gather a dangerous crowd able to corral the monsters. There may be a side helping of revenge in the offing, as well. Helping him along are an effortlessly inclusive crew with an array of talents from assassination to demolitions.

Alternate history meets western adventure as Winslow, Hero, Adelia, Archie and Co fend with feral hippos and sociopathic riverboat owners in this over-too-soon novella. The secondary plot about Winslow's past might not be quite as engaging as the hippo plot but adds another layer to the hat-wearing main character. Inventive, lively, and diverse but admittedly hampered by its (lack of) length, River of Teeth is great entertainment for an hour or so.

Also: now I need Sarah to do a rewrite of the Australian Emu War.

Also: check out the article about making of River of Teeth's map. There are EXTRA FIDDLY BITS.


  1. Okay when I first heard about this story I admittedly turned my nose up because it sounded kinda ludicrous but it does sound quite fascinating. I can't believe that was an actual plan. lol And I would totally read a book about the Australian Emu War. hahahaha

    1. I thought it was going to be a short story on but nope! It's a novella and it's super fun..

      I would really love someone to write a fictionalized version of the emu war. It would be hilarious. I need it.


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