LEX Copyright Iroda / LEX Copyright Office

by Taylor Brown

THE RIVER OF KINGS by Taylor Brown

St. Martin’s Press, March 2017

Two brothers travel a storied river’s past and present in search of the truth about their father’s death, in the second novel by the acclaimed author of Fallen Land

Flowing 137 miles from central Georgia to the coast, the Altamaha River is more than a body of water: it’s an ancient place, still in its natural state, home to hundreds of rare plant and animal species and bearing traces of both native tribes and the recently-discovered remnants of the most ancient European settlement in North America.

Brothers Hunter and Lawson Loggins set off to kayak the length of the river, bearing their father Hiram’s ashes toward the sea. Hunter is a college student, Lawson a Navy SEAL operator on leave for reasons he won’t discuss; both young men were raised by an angry, enigmatic fisherman who loved the river, and whose death remains a mystery that his sons hope to resolve. As the brothers proceed downriver, an alternate story unfolds, told by an illustrator who accompanied the expedition: that of the 1564 French settlement at the river’s mouth, which began as a search for riches and ended in a bloody confrontation with both Spanish soldiers and native tribes that left the fort in ruins and a few survivors fleeing for their lives.

In The River of Kings, award-winning author Taylor Brown artfully weaves three narrative strands—the brothers’ journey, their father’s troubled past, and the dramatic buried history of the river’s earliest people—to evoke a legendary place and its powerful hold on the human imagination. This brilliantly realized second novel fulfills the promise of Brown’s widely praised debut, Fallen Land, which was a SIBA bestseller, an Indie Next pick, and an Amazon Best Book of the Month.

Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of western North Carolina. His fiction has appeared in more than twenty publications, he is the recipient of the Montana Prize in Fiction, and was a finalist in both the Machigonne Fiction Contest and the Doris Betts Fiction Prize. Fallen Land (2016) was his first novel; The River of Kings is his second. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.


“Two close but competitive brothers set out in kayaks down one of America’s last true wilderness rivers to scatter their father’s ashes. Over the next five days they travel deep into the horrific history of their own family, and of the river itself, in the most exciting literary adventure fiction I’ve read since Deliverance. Taylor Brown’s The River of Kings has it all: crackling drama, unforgettable characters, myth, the unspoiled natural world, love, laughter, and tragedy – all rendered in Brown’s gorgeous, precise prose. The River of Kings is truly a great American novel.” —Howard Frank Mosher, author of God’s Kingdom

“In The River of Kings Taylor Brown offers a brilliant braided history, water-tight and blood-bound. Each strand of time is laid atop the one before it to make an intricate fable: two brothers, paddling back against the past, and whatever monsters lurk beneath its surface. This book haunts itself. And Mr. Brown keeps getting better and better.” —Ashley Warlick, author of The Arrangement

“With language as rich as floodplain soil, The River of Kings is a stunning Southern epic of tremendous heart and scope. Taylor Brown takes risks few other writers would chance and somehow manages to traverse those waters with an astounding grace and beauty.” —David Joy, author of The Weight Of This World

Reviews and Quotes for Fallen Land:

“Like McCarthy's Border Trilogy or Frazier's Cold Mountain, this is American literature at its best, full of art and beauty and the exploration of all that is good and bad in the human spirit.” –Kirkus, starred review

“This is a masterpiece that deserves a full serving of accolades.”—Booklist, starred review

“Brown’s expressive language captures the harsh realities of the South at the time. A nail-biting journey from first page to last.” –Library Journal, starred review

“A story of love and loyalty set within the madness and chaos of war, Fallen Land is also a thrilling fugue, in both senses: of flight, and intricate composition. It is also the story of a revenge quest, the horrors of Sherman's March, a noble horse named Reiver, of sacrifice, endurance, and redemption. No one who reads Fallen Land will ever forget it. In this first novel Taylor Brown proves himself a fresh, authentic, and eloquent new voice in American fiction.” —Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek, Boone, and The Road from Gap Creek

“A shattering debut that puts one strongly in mind of the young Cormac McCarthy, and the best historical fiction I've read in ages.” —Pinckney Benedict, author of Town Smokes, The Wrecking Yard, and Dogs of God

“It is rare thing for a writer to have the talent and scope to exhibit both the worst and best of humanity in one book, much less in one scene, but that's what Brown does here: He literally floods the page with violent beauty and devastating grace. Well-known and oft-praised writers will look back on long and storied careers only to wish they had written a debut novel as flawless as Fallen Land.” —Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind Than Home

“Taylor Brown has given us the wonderful tale of Callum, who will make his way through his own private Civil War. His is not so much a war of grand battles and armies, but a real war of personal survival. Powerfully written, wonderfully told, Fallen Land needs to be part of every collection of great storytelling of the American Civil War.” —Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country

“Harrowing and haunting, Brown’s novel travels through the brutality of the Civil War, the desperate yearning of young love, and the glint of hope that can illuminate tragedy. Thanks to Brown’s genius, you don’t just read this book--you inhabit it.”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You