Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

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Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: An interesting free verse urban fantasy that surprisingly draws you in and holds your attention. Strong, visceral emotions fit the premise, and you get a mystery thrown in for good measure.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: August 2008
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 0099512467

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Downtown LA. Ever wondered why there's so much crime? Ever thought the howling of stray dogs might have something to do with it? In this LA, the howling of dogs has everything to do with it. Many of the gangs aren't quite human, you see - they're werewolf packs. Lark is a lawyer and head of a werewolf pack with grand designs on taking over the city from the humans. Antony is a lowly dog-catcher who falls in love with a mysterious woman at a bar. Peabody is a detective, investigating dog-related murders in which a small, bridge-playing man and his enormous companion seem tremendously interested...

My heart sank when Sharp Teeth arrived. An urban fantasy about werewolves written in free verse? Oh good lord. I know the werewolf market is somewhat saturated at the moment, but do we really need a free verse twist? And how likely is it that the free verse will be any good? I wasn't hopeful.

But actually, you know, it was pretty good. Perhaps the verse reads more like a stream of consciousness movie outline than it does poetry (and Barlow has a film background, so no surprise there) but the effect is surprisingly addictive. Usually I hate gimmicks and Sharp Teeth is full of them - from the chapter quotes to the cover, to the form itself. But these gimmicks are all sharp, funny and perfectly chosen. My only real grate was Barlow's insistence on saying lycanthrope instead of werewolf.

The story itself is a blend of crime thriller and love story. It's smart and pacy and full of energy. I'm not sure the verse form lifts it far above its competitors in a stuffed market, but as a noirish urban fantasy, it's as enjoyable as they come, combining the standard genre tropes with some hot and sweaty love action and a crime mystery for solving. The end fight gets a little silly, but we'll forgive Barlow for that.

My thanks to the nice people at Vintage for sending the book.

You'll find more urban werewolves in No Humans Involved by Kelley Armstrong. We also think you might enjoy a rather different urban fantasy: Ghost Train to New Orleans: Book 2 of the Shambling Guides by Mur Lafferty. We also have a review of The Iron Hunt (Hunter Kiss) by Marjorie M Liu.

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Buy Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow at


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