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.)
Huge fan of environmental themes also. How else do we open peoples minds to the issues? For sure not on facebook and twitter!