Saturday, 10 February 2018

Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey

Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey is a novella about hippos, and the people that interact with them, set in an alternative 1890s US South. It is the sequel to River of Teeth, which I previously reviewed and which I found contained a bit too much hippo violence for my hippo-loving sensibilities.

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the damn that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway.

Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: "And not a soul escaped alive."

In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they've become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

In my review of River of Teeth I said that I probably wouldn't read the sequel because of all the hippo violence. So why did I? Well, I was told the second book had less hippo violence (true), I was invested in the characters and wanted to know what happened to them and I got a review copy of it. I started reading it near the end of a series of long-haul flights and continued while jetlagged, which probably wasn't the best way to enjoy it.

This novella picked up a few months after the previous one left off and followed two groups of characters that had become separated due to the events of the previous book. The plot centres on the characters trying to find each other again, with a bit of tying up of loose ends. There are less hippos in this one and less page time spent on their riding. Ferals do show up and meet untimely ends but on a smaller scale than in the first book. I found the hippo violence easier to overlook in this one.

I enjoyed this book but I didn’t love it. I kind of glad the series is over so I don’t have to make difficult decisions about whether to read more. Balancing my love for hippos (and my desire not to see them hurt) with the less upsetting aspects such as th diverse characters. And, for all that I’m not a fan of westerns, this one works for me (despite being set it the South, it does take a lot of queues from westerns).

I recommend Taste of Marrow to fans of River of Teeth. It doesn’t really stand alone, so if the notion of hippo-riding takes your fancy, start with the first book. If you’re indifferent to hippos but on the look out for stories with a variety of diverse characters, then I strongly suggest giving this series a go.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2017, Tor.com publishing
Series: Yes. River of Teeth book 2 of 2
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

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