A tale of contention over love and money - among dragons.
Jo Walton burst onto the fantasy scene with The King's Peace, acclaimed by writers as diverse as Poul Anderson, Robin Hobb, and Ken MacLeod. In 2002, she was voted the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Now Walton returns with a very different kind of fantasy story: the tale of a family dealing with the death of their father, of a son who goes to law for his inheritance, a son who agonizes over his father's deathbed confession, a daughter who falls in love, a daughter who becomes involved in the abolition movement, and a daughter sacrificing herself for her husband. Except that everyone in the story is a dragon, red in tooth and claw.
Here is a world of politics and train stations, of churchmen and family retainers, of courtship and country houses... in which, on the death of an elder, family members gather to eat the body of the deceased. In which society's high-and-mighty members avail themselves of the privilege of killing and eating the weaker children, which they do with ceremony and relish, growing stronger thereby. You have never read a novel like Tooth and Claw.
©2003 Jo Walton (P)2014 Audible Inc.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
I absolutely LOVED this little allegorical tale that reads like a regency story as told by Aesop. You really don't need any summary of this story; the plot is right out of Jane Austen with all the class consciousness, priggishness, and blatant sexism of 19th century England, but all the norms of behavior have been translated to dragonkind. In addition, Walton addresses servitude/slavery, religious influences (I loved the CofE and RC analogous dragon religions), and racism in a way that Austen never did. Like Austen's stories, "Tooth and Claw", is fun and entertaining with fabulous characters, subtle satire, and a very tidy ending. Unlike Austen, Walton exposes the truth of a highly dysfunctional and abusive society by using an animal illustration much like Aesop in his Fables. Philostratus said of Aesop, "...he by announcing a story which everyone knows not to be true, told the truth by the very fact that he did not claim to be relating real events." And indeed, Walton tells some great truth while she entertains us with dragons.
John Lee provides a wonderful performance of the story making this an all around terrific audiobook!
This is a story right out of Austen, Trollope, or Dickens, all about social class, money, property, marriages, and society. But all the characters are dragons. It's really charming to read about the dragons putting on hats, attending church, riding on trains (when flying isn't socially acceptable), and then sitting down to a few raw cows for dinner. And if tensions between them get too high, they just eat each other! A tour de force and very well narrated.
I encourage people to touch the sky of human imagination and read fantasy. My blog is the Importance of the Impossible.
Tooth and Claw is written in the the style of Pride and Prejudice, though with more shifting of perspective from character to character within a scene (head-hopping). The story is strong enough that I might've even liked it if the characters were not all dragons. And there can be no higher recommendation.
As much as I was enthralled by the concept of a legal dispute among dragons, I was disappointed to discover that said dispute is largely a backdrop used to provide convenient beginning and end points for the story. Instead, the story bounces back and forth between the four main characters, with occasional detours to side characters. Each character has their own individual conflict to handle, but only one of these has any real development. It's not the legal dispute.
Oddly enough, the four initial characters serve as little more than observers. They rarely take any active role in the story, instead merely revealing more about two other characters, one irredeemably evil and the other unquestionably good. All of these characters are completely static. None of them are forced to confront hard choices or go through any measure of character development. Eventually, the story becomes little more than a series of scenes to highlight the qualities and prowess of the good character, as well as the vices of the evil character. I'm hesitant to use the term Mary Sue for the good character, but the similarities are far too numerous to ignore. All of the potential of a legal drama is quickly cast aside to make way for this character to be a hero.
Without spoiling anything, the story's conclusion was far too neat. There are no lingering questions, looming consequences, or loose ends. While this is certainly good to ensure that no reader is left asking, "But what about...?," it feels very heavy-handed and far too convenient that every issue (and there are many) is resolved within the span of the dispute.
I honestly don't know how to recommend this book. I suppose, at best, if you're looking for a novel approach to dragon society, this could be a good read. Otherwise, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
Walton makes it seem effortless to recreate the social manners novel made famous by Jane Austen. Insert a bit of the alt-history world of the Temeraire books (by Naomi Novik) where dragons talk and have personalities just like people, and you have the general idea behind this light romp. Everything from the chapter headings to the ridiculous hats to the fixation on who is going to marry whom is handled with aplomb and a wink, making me laugh out loud—always a sign of a good book.
[I listened to this as an audio book narrated by John Lee, who did an absolutely amazing job of adding just the right amount of smirk to his performance to assure the listener that he knows that we know that the story is just one huge confectionary, but one that we will gladly consume in one sitting even though we know too much sugar is not good for us.]
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