Toothless is a standalone novel set in a fictional France in 1180 A.D. The Black Yew leads an army of the unstoppable undead, indiscriminately killing all in its wake. A few select warriors who are cut down are brought back to life. Martin, a former Templar, is now “Toothless,” an undead soldier with a special connection to the Yew. He seems destined to lead the fallen, but just as paths in life can be circuitous, so wind the twisting paths of the afterlife.
On his path, Toothless collides with Lil, a young female seer whose deformities and visions lead locals to believe that she may be responsible for attracting recent attacks from the forces of evil. When Toothless arrives in town, his presence does little to dispel that belief, but together, Toothless and Lil will shape the fate of the nation.
A fresh take on the zombie genre
Toothless is not your typical zombie tale; quite a few facets set it apart. First, rather than being set in an apocalyptic future, this tale is solidly grounded in a distant, fictional past where battles were big and bloody. The undead inhabit this setting with so much ease that I foresee other genre authors following suit.
Second, this may not be the first tale told from the perspective of the undead, but it’s hard to imagine a better guide than Toothless. The change from human to zombie is a significant one, and we experience firsthand Toothless’s struggle to cling to any vestigial humanity.
Third, we’re offered Lil, an unconventional heroine who serves as the mortal foil to Toothless. She provides a much needed respite from the despair of the undead, though we witness the equally harsh realities of life through her.
Moore melds atmosphere and action with perfect momentum: Toothless starts off with shades of melancholy as palpable as that of Frankenstein’s monster, and explodes into holy warfare that calls into question the very meaning of life, and whether that meaning can subsist through death. While the ending may be a little predictable, the maxim that “it’s the journey, not the destination” holds true here—Toothless is a hell of a journey.
Why should you read this book?
In the words of Mr. Moore himself, “[i]f Toothless is about anything, it is about a wife who inspires, children whose love redeems, and the power of friendship.” I found that to be wholly accurate. I’d recommend this book to zombie lovers and haters alike, as Toothless can only redeem the latter.
Benni received a review copy of this book courtesy of the author.