By Marcus Damanda
Published June 2007
Date reviewed: August 20, 2007
Originally reviewed at: BookReview.com
When we’re kids, we’re taught to avoid the dark because of all the monsters lurking in it – the witches, vampires and werewolves waiting to swoop in and take us for nefarious purposes. Of course, when we grow older we realize those stories were told chiefly to shelter us from the more realistic danger of murderers and kidnappers waiting to drag us into their vans.
But what if those murderers and kidnappers actually were the monsters of our youth and not simply disturbed individuals? That blend of real and imagined danger is the core of “Teeth: A Horror Fantasy,” the debut novel of writer Marcus Damanda. A tense, shocking novel, it offers a more contemporary type of vampires and makes them as frightening as any serious Dracula depiction.
The story centers on a small Virginia town, where a small clan known as the Damworths have come to feed. As they settle in and begin preying on the residents, they will cross paths with two of the town’s resident outcasts: an albino high school student named Nicholas and a dishonored deputy named Frank Gillis. This contact will lead to an escalating body count and exercise of supernatural powers, culminating in a night-long siege on a juvenile hall.
“Teeth” advertises itself as a horror fantasy, and it certainly matches its title. Damanda creates horrifying scenes such as a ritual slaughter by the Damworths and a midnight forest battle between Nicholas and a wolf-creature, all of which are blood-drenched and vividly written. The climactic siege is particularly alarming, rolling out all levels of vampiric powers and turning children into combatants against the police.
Characterization is also very important to the novel. The vampires are not the stereotyped Europeans but a mix of different personalities, including a coldly proficient leader, a gregarious black music fan and an emotional stargazing redhead. Nicholas, who suffers excessive torment from bullies and his father, is the poster child for troubled teens and is depicted as excellently conflicted between his humanity and the chance to escape it. This psychological debate is almost as frightening as the violence, for the possibility that thousands of students in his shoes would eagerly take the option.
“Teeth” is the sort of novel that makes you look twice at any nondescript van in a parking lot, look over your shoulder at an unlit forest and eat a heavier dose of garlic at dinner – in short, an excellent thriller. It shows the reader a very dark and compelling world that, despite the unnerving feeling, is worth sticking around for.