I loved this book to an extent that makes it almost impossible for me to review it. It's weird, it's out there, it has hippos. And a couple of its characters wormed their way into my heart and still make me grin when I think of them, because my world is a little brighter now that I know that they exist.
On the face of it, this isn't my thing. I'm not usually a western type of person, at least partially because the typical treatment of female characters that I'd come to expect from the westerns that I watched with my dad when I was growing up. However, this book is weirder than your typical western. The plot feels western-ish, but with a couple of important changes: the aforementioned hippos, and all sorts of interesting, good, gender representation. Not only do we have a badass woman in the both pregnant and deadly Adelia; we also get Hero, a sweet-as-can-be african-american nonbinary person (who makes me swoon every time I think of their competence and shy, slow, sweet romance with Winslow Houndstooth), and Archie, an overweight, french, female thief who also occasionally likes to dress as a dapper man because her gender is fluid. And not only do we get all of these amazing characters; no one is thrown off their sexuality, no one asks them intrusive questions. They just are, and are allowed to be themselves without comment. The only time when we get any sort of comments on someone's sexuality is when Archie reveals that she occasionally dresses like a man, and the comments are entirely positive, because Archie being able to pass as male enables them to continue with a vital part of their plan. It's not often that we get characters like this who are just allowed to be, and I, for one, can only say that my response to this book was as simple and emphatic as a triumphant "Yes, that thing."
Plus, there's all the stuff with the hippos and the Mississippi being dammed to create thousands of miles of swamp for the hippos to live in, which is amazing and strange and exactly the sort of weird, out-there worldbuilding that I love.
I highly recommend this book to everyone.
5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.