Adventures in Reading

Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
February 11, 2008, 4:26 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction

Continuing my fantasy reading, I picked up Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth on an impulse. I was between books and it has a terrific cover that really stands out in the fantasy aisle. However, after reading the summary on the back I nearly placed it back on the shelf. It is a story of werewolves in Los Angeles and I really do not have a lot of interest in contemporary mythology of werewolves and even less interest in yet another book unfolding in L.A. What caught and held my interest was when I flipped through the book only to discover that Sharp Teeth is a verse novel.

I had never read a modern verse novel and gave in to the entertainment value of it. The plot focuses on three rival gangs of werewolves in L.A. and throughout the story overlapping threads pull these groups together into a final climactic battle. Barlow’s werewolf interpretation hinges on two points: that werewolves are people who can change into dogs at will and that these gangs (or packs) center around a single female werewolf. While this female is not portrayed as the alpha dog, Barlow does represent these women as having great maternal and sexual control over the groups. From this an idea involving the L.A. dog pound slowly blossoms.

The style of writing is nice or pleasing. I found myself wanting to know what would happen next and becoming engaged with the characters. I never really felt for the characters, but the story provided a unique place to watch themes of life, death, love, group mentality, etc. unfold.

Sharp Teeth is a quick and engaging read. If you are unaccustomed to reading poetry, you may find yourself initially struggling with the verse style. The verse style demands to be read slowly to get the full impact of line breaks, and Barlow accomplishes this beautifully. I also see now how much more frightening a werewolf can be when it is your every day, loveable pooch.

And another review from Tripping Toward Lucidity.

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