From the Library Book Review: Sharp Teeth
Without a doubt, this is one of the – if not the most – inventive and creative werewolf novels that I have ever read. It is both a challenging and deeply seductive read, managing to evoke the raw lore of werewolves (which most tend to ignore), the harshness of their real life as humans, and then on top of everything the sensual, wonderful aspects of a love story. The plot is delightfully simple at its core, but also multilayered and complex, wherein everything ultimately interweaves to create an entire new world (and even format) for werewolves to romp in.
Sharp Teeth, when you first open it, is going to be a little shocking even if you are prepared for it. Full disclosure: I wasn’t. I picked this up at Half-Price Books knowing nothing of it and deciding, much like I normally do, that the picture of the wolf on the front and the red backdrop was enough for me. When I opened the novel and looked at the first pages and realized that the entire book was written in verse format, I was stunned, but also highly intrigued.
Although I was nervous about how someone could write a good modern, contemporary, epic irregular verse poem about three packs of werewolves in Los Angeles, ultimately I willingly (and quite happily) concede that Barlow is a master at weaving a story. The foundation of the story is about a dog catcher and a werewolf who fall in love, but there’s so much more here to revel in. Whether it is the ironic idea of a werewolf playing normal dog, or the more sinister idea of werewolves breeding an army that then hide as normal dogs until the right time, there are some great twists and tongue-in-cheek plot points that are so different from anything we have seen in the sub-genre before, which is absolutely fantastic.
One thing that I will also say is that as a girl who admittedly loves both extremely violent horror movies and Pride and Prejudice, it is a source of great frustration to me that there is such a divide between an honestly good novel with horror elements that is also romantic and features a love story. It usually goes either to cheesy, fan fiction-esque territory or suddenly, the lead female becomes a nymphomaniac who has orgies every 10 pages (I’m looking at you, Laurell K. Hamilton). Sometimes, you just want to read a mature, grown-up love story starring some werewolves in a turf war. Is that too much to ask? Obviously not, because you get that in Sharp Teeth.
However, it is in the love story that both the greatest and the weakest parts of Sharp Teeth can be found. It simultaneously manages to be macabre, and supernatural yet realistic, but it does at times wander into melodramatic and somewhat sappy territory. Barlow is at his best when his lines are simplistic but still descriptive, such as when he describes Sasha, the lead female: “Standing on four legs in her fur,/she is her own brand of beast.” It is lines like this that make me love his characters, love his writing style, and love this book.
Still, this novel will not be for everyone. Most people never read a drop of epic poetry outside of their required education lists. And for the most part, I’d be one of them – but come on. This is epic poetry about werewolves and that in itself is awesome on a level I can’t begin to describe. I encourage readers out there to take a look at Sharp Teeth, which is such a unique take on werewolves, and if more people gave it a chance, I honestly believe it could revitalize a tired sub-genre.