Gods of Howl Mountain – Taylor Brown
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Taylor Brown’s newest novel is pure, unadulterated southern gothic at it’s brainiest. Rory Docherty is a car repairman living in the heights of Howl Mountain, a mysterious Southern hot spot where murder, violence, and illegality are a gray area, and men are more or less left to rule themselves. Rory runs whiskey for Eustace, a reclusive, vicious, and powerful overseer of the mountain, and lives with Granny May, a renown medicine woman. He lives with the burden of his experiences in the Korean War, with a prosthetic leg for his efforts, and the weight of his mother’s mysterious trauma right before he was born. His father was violently murdered in front of her, and ever since, she has been a mute patient in the nearby psych ward. The family is eager to let the past remain in the past, but they lay claim to an eyeball, lost by the man who led the attack. Rory’s bootlegging business makes him many enemies and few friends, other than his close friend Eli, and as he runs closer to danger with the law, he also finds himself closer to the truth of his mother’s demise, buried within the secrets of Howl Mountain.
Brown has created a totally authentic sense of the southern gothic style. His extraordinarily detailed world-building has set an amazing landscape of an eerie mountainside, compellingly laden with deeply-rooted history, dark secrets, and danger. The core mystery of Rory’s mother is engaging, and as the fans are flamed when we near the truth, I was on the edge of my seat to find out who killed Rory’s father, and set so many stones in motion.
The novel is extremely busy and intricate. Rory’s experience from wartime often has an effect on the danger he nears within his bootlegging activities. His family is daunted by the mystery in their past, and Rory takes it upon himself to solve it, all the whole maintaining his day job as a car repairman and racing aficionado. Rory finds himself repeatedly running into his bootlegging completion, Cooley Muldoon, and their feud reaches an exciting and violent boiling point.
No matter what fragment of these plot lines you read, the context and development is incredibly detailed and fully fleshed-out. The only hindrance here is that there is so much content. There is honestly something for everyone, but it borders on being too much for anyone. Personally, I found my interest lagging whenever Rory started talking about cars (which was often), but it would fortunately pick right back up again when he spoke about their family’s past.
The prose is elaborate and sophisticated, but initially threw me off balance from its wordiness. Several of the first few chapters were so stuffed with similes that I lost track of any action or information. During dialogue scenes, the characters speak with a southern drawl, and the grammar used reflects this, which did wonders for furthering the authenticity, but also made it occasionally difficult to interpret.
Finally, the novel has a consistently strange way of describing and depicting sexual appeal and activity. He particularly goes to great lengths to find different ways of describing women’s breasts. Phrases like “pert as a bird”, “”sharp as weapons”, “nipples like hard little stems”, “nipples hard as buttons”, “her nipples berry-firm”, and “her breasts hug heavy as dove, upturned and pert, the nipples hard as stone pebbles” are abundant. He uses the words “nipple” and “breast” 29 times in the book, and there aren’t even that many actual sex scenes. Honestly, the persistent attempts to draw weird comparisons between boobs and nature are anything but sexy, and the sexuality of he book trends toward sounding like it was written a youthful boy with a hyperactive sex drive and an affinity for bad metaphors.
Gods of Howl Mountain is full of dark intrigue, well-choreographed action and violence, and a detailed commitment to the creepiness requisite of southern gothic. While the character development is minimal, and the cast can be hard to connect with, they are compelling part of a deep set of storylines that kept me engaged in the eerie world of Howl Mountain.
Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Publishers for my copy in exchange for an honest review.