Cover of The River Has Teeth, featuring a skull made of natural items like a moth, branches, and an owl on a black background.

About the Book

Title: The River Has Teeth
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Nocturnal Nature
BFF Charms: Eventually, Caution
Talky Talk: Dark Magic
Bonus Factor: Magic
Anti-Bonus Factors: Kidnapping, Men
Relationship Status: Hesitantly Hopeful

Content Warning: The River Has Teeth features grim/gory depictions of death, kidnapping with assault, emotional abuse, murder, and attempted murder.

Cover Story: Nocturnal Nature

I feel like this cover is supposed to give off skull vibes, but the owl totally throws it off for me; the text also blocks a lot of the elements. It’s a good mix of items, though, that hint at the atmosphere of the book’s plot.

(This is a better use of flora and fauna to create a skull.)

The Deal:

Natasha Greymont’s sister is missing, and no one but Natasha is willing—or so she thinks—to do what it takes to figure out what happened to her. Including hiring Della Lloyd, daughter of an infamous local family rumored to be witches. At first, Della doesn’t want to help. She has her own issues, including the fact that her mother turns into a monster each night, and that the magic of the Bend—her family’s magic—is turning dark and twisted. But she can’t help but be attracted to Natasha’s fire … and when her mother shows up one morning bloody, Della can’t help but fear the worst.

BFF Charms: Eventually, Caution

BFF Charm with a sweatband on

It would take some time to crack Della Lloyd’s shell. She’s used to doing things on her own, or with members of her family, and being ostracized by members of the town (even as they pay her family for spells of revenge). She’s understandably closed off and thorny, but she’s also a really intriguing, passionate young woman who’d make a stellar friend. If one could break through her walls.

BFF charm wrapped in yellow "Caution" tape

Natasha Greymont, on the other hand, is—on the surface—much more of an open book. But there’s a fire underneath her polished exterior that threatens to overwhelm both her and anyone who gets in her way (even if they’re in the right and she’s not). I can’t fault her for being angry, especially when it feels like everyone’s written her sister off as a flaky runaway. But I’m not sure I’d even want to try to be her friend until things got sorted, purely from a sense of self-preservation.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Della and Natasha have immediate enemistry, which becomes something else before the mystery is solved. But I never fully bought into the chemistry, and the swoon was sadly more tell than show.

Talky Talk: Dark Magic

The River Has Teeth, although it’s a contemporary novel, often feels like one of those books that jumps back and forth in time, especially because it switches between the POVs of Della and Natasha; Della’s chapters feel old, while Natasha’s feel more “in the present.” (Even though they intersect and are happening at the same time.) This gives the book an unsettling feeling, which goes nicely with the actual unsettling aspects of the plot. Winters does a nice job of making the Lloyd family feel like magical creatures themselves, too—even the ones that are fully human. I was left wanting more spooky, though. I wish we’d learned more about the Bend and the magic that runs through it rather than focusing on the missing girls plotline. (Sorry, Natasha.)

Bonus Factor: Magic

Open book with moving pages in front of a glowing blue sphere and twinkle lights

Della’s magic is family magic that comes specifically from the land near which they live. It’s earth magic, the kind that smells like rich dirt and lightning. Each of her family members has slightly different gifts, but they’re all related. And they’re all super cool.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Kidnapping

A kidnapper in a mask on the phone holding bags of money

Natasha’s sister isn’t the only young woman who goes missing in The River Has Teeth, and by the end of the book, you get to see an abduction close-up. It’s not super graphic, but it is frightening and a little too realistic.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Men

A young woman in a pink hat hold sup a protest sign that reads "Smash the Patriarchy"

See above.

Relationship Status: Hesitantly Hopeful

Our time together wasn’t exactly what I expected, Book, and I would have liked to be a little more spooked than enraged, but you’ve got a great amount of passion in you, and I’d like to see where this *gestures back and forth between us* might take us.

Literary Matchmaking

The Female of the Species

Mindy McGinnis’ book is also about a sister’s quest for vengeance.

The Boneless Mercies

April Genevieve Tucholke’s books are also filled with atmosphere and unusual magics.

Ghost Wood Song

And for more of Waters’ writing, check out her debut novel.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperTeen, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The River Has Teeth is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.