Wow! What a fascinating book written with absolutely gorgeous, transporting prose.
I tend to enjoy dual-period books, but THE RIVER OF KINGS by Taylor Brown actually is a rare treat in that it weaves a third period into the storyline, and does so expertly. The novel follows the stories of two brothers on a quest to take their father’s ashes to sea (no spoilers here – jacket copy says as much); the story of their father’s troubled past (a Vietnam vet); and the story of an artist on a 1500s French expedition in Georgia.
It’s no small feat for an author to be able to connect three stories in a cohesive manner, but Brown does so with ease; the stories never feel forced and always have a connection subtle or pronounced. I think one of the biggest strengths of the book lies in Brown’s ability to create realistic characters with authentic action and dialogue. I was really struck by the brothers’ banter, their physical reactions to one another – and while they didn’t actually say much during their journey, their actions spoke volumes. This is “show” (don’t tell) at its best.
I also enjoy fiction with environmental themes, and Brown doesn’t shy away from the impact of man’s ‘industrialization’ on Georgia’s riverways. These kinds of books are more important than ever today, I think, in helping the public view the good Earth, its resources, and its wildlife for the treasures they are – not just as expendable ‘commodities.’ The author presents these realities without a heavy hand, but they are so critically important to introduce into public consciousness. I learned a great deal about the fishing and timber industries as a result of reading this book, and quite a bit about Navy SEALs (and French insults during the 1500s!).
If you love books rich in setting, THE RIVER OF KINGS by Taylor Brown will not disappoint. I was transported along the shores and marshes of Georgia’s coast and felt like I was physically there. Brown has a way of creating visual images that jump off the page.
THE RIVER OF KINGS is a story of family, failure, faith, love of land, man’s ambition, resilience, and history. There are some wonderful magical/supernatural elements in the book as well that are sure to entertain and pose questions about possibility/the unknown/the sacred.
I also loved the author’s debut, Fallen Land (Civil War-era); I am definitely looking forward to what he writes next. With gorgeous literary prose, he’s fast becoming a favorite author.
(A version of this review was published by Melissa Crytzer Fry at GoodReads on July 31, 2017. It is reposted here with the permission of the post author.)