Review: Tooth and Nail by Jennifer Safrey

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Genre: supernatural/mythic fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 320 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected February 7th 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.75/5

Gemma Fae Cross, a tough-girl amateur boxer whose fiance is running for congress, has just made a startling discovery about herself. She is half faerie - and not just any faerie, but a tooth faerie! A hybrid of fae and human, Gemma is destined to defend the Olde Way and protect the fae - who are incapable of committing violence - from threats to their peaceful and idyllic way of life, which must be maintained by distilling innocence collected from children''s baby teeth. But when a threat to the fae mission emerges, Gemma is called upon to protect her heritage, and become a legendary fae warrior... even if it means sacrificing everything she knows about being human!

Though I first gave Tooth and Nail four out of five as a kneejerk "That was pretty damn fun to read!" reaction, a couple days distance and thought has me edging it down ever-so-slightly to a 3.75/5 stars. Don't let that alarm or dismay you from giving this urban fantasy a try - personal pet peeves and a possible plot hole aren't enough to overwhelm the good in this modern-day take on the Tooth Fairy legend. First: I loved the idea behind Jennifer Safrey's novel: a female pugilist in the role of littlies' tooth collector? Inventive, clever and fun: all premises and hopes I had for this novel in those regards were fulfilled. Among things that I hadn't bargained on: the love-triangle (kick me), the genuinely freaky tooth-related nightmares Gemma has. Frequently. (Seriously, just no, no no.), or just how sinister adult dentists can be.

Gemma Fae Cross is the main character's name and while I find painfully obvious character names to be well, painfully obvious, I found myself liking the tough-natured and competitive Gemma. She's one of those type of characters that has a strong, vibrant personality on the page - one that was thankfully well-rounded and flawed, though not one I was initially invested in much.  "Bricks" short for "Brickhouse" is a competitive and good fighter in a very male dominated sport, so it's easy to say that Gemma both doesn't take shit from anyone nor pull any punches; two traits I love in a female main character. I also love that though Gemma has a serious relationship, Avery doesn't dominate her life or her thoughts. I was wary of the whole "giving up my job since he's a politician" but Gemma is an independent girl, even foolhardily so. I was also slightly disappointed by some of the things Gemma did throughout Tooth and Nail (<SPOILER warning!> like kissing mentor Svein when "so in love" with Avery, repeatedly not asking for help, failing to tell anyone what she is doing or neglecting to read her freaking guidebook/how-to-Tooth-Fairy manual given to her before tooth-collecting alone</end SPOILER warning), but forgave her flaws because, as her father so often told her, she is still human and capable of making mistakes. And she's also still pretty badass, flaws and disappointments aside.

As part of the "morning fae" (as opposed to their enemies, the "midnight fae"), Gemma is supposed to collect children's teeth for two years as a service to her race. Why? She works for Brimstone? The morning fae use the teeth as an attempt to regain "the Olde Way" - a way of life so long gone and innocent the fae can only remember while touching a human child's innocence - in the form of a tooth. Yes, it's a little weird and odd but I like the individual and creative mythology that Safrey worked for. My only issues and the possible aforementioned plothole from above: <SPOILER warning>If the evil dentist was plotting to ruin 'The Old Way' because he was a gasp! half-breed and never allowed to experience it . . .  why didn't he just touch one of his patients extracted teeth without a glove? If that's all it took to experience 'The Old Way', as seems to be the case both for Gemma's experiences, there was never one moment in all his years of schooling and practicing that the Doctor touched a touch barehanded? It strains my credulity and makes me hope that I either missed or forgot something contradicting this. <end SPOILER>) My other complaint is trivial in comparison: all of Gemma's training - both physcial or not- is off-screen! Why! I was bummed to miss out on Svein and Gemma's interactions as long as they don't kiss. Theirs is an interesting and often charged dynamic of two dominant personalities vying for control. I'd certainly be behind a relationship, they're interesting together in way Gemma and Avery aren't - but please, do NOT go the way of the love-triangle, Ms. Safrey. Either make Gemma choose Avery or Svein but the hints and allusions to romantic tension between Gemma and her fae mentor while she is living with another man is just too much.

Let's just get it out there. The tooth nightmares. I hated them. Hated hated hated. I guess I never had a tooth-related nightmare as a child/adult or one bad enough that I remember it to this day (though apparently they are quite common. Who knew?) but I totally, totally get the horror after reading Safrey's dark and twisted visions. While I can't attest that Ms. Safrey is the absolutely best storyteller I've come across, she is certainly an able and effective one. I might not've had those kind of dreams before but I wouldn't be surprised if they appeared now! While the nightmares were the only instance I particularly took note of Ms. Safrey's prose, I liked the direct tone and voice of this book. Gemma's voice never falters and is thoroughly believable.

Tooth and Nail is a promising introduction to a new urban fantasy writer in Jennifer Safrey. Her mythology is both strong and unique while incorporating a popular theme (fae/faeries/fey/whatever), and her characters are both strong and memorable. I would be interested in reading both other books by this author and any sequels planned for this particular world/series.


  1. I'm not likely to ever pick this up ever but I do kind of love the set up. Tooth fairy boxing girl?! Yes!

    1. That was the major kicker for me to try it. It was fun, but eh, you're not missing out. In a world of so many books, so little time...


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