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Tooth and Claw

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A tale of love, money, and family conflict--among dragons. A family deals with the death of their father. A son goes to court for his inheritance. Another son agonises over his father's deathbed confession. One daughter becomes involved in the abolition movement, while another sacrifices herself for her husband. And everyone in the tale 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 the great and the good 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.

304 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published November 1, 2003

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About the author

Jo Walton

79 books2,852 followers
Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,198 reviews
Profile Image for Joel.
554 reviews1,622 followers
February 15, 2011
Jo Walton is my new favorite book nerd. She's a huge dork for science-fiction and fantasy, which you know if you read her wonderful retrospective reviews over at Tor.com. She's also clearly a geek for the written word in general, particularly 19th century Victorian-era social novels. And so, in grand "you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter" tradition, she wrote a book that combines them both, recasting a Victorian novel with anthropomorphic dragons.

It's a literary mash-up with the potential for disaster, but rather than just coming up with a cute idea and shoving it into an old book ("Oh hahaha what if Anna Karenina was a robot because 'android' starts with the same sound!"), she reimagined old literary tropes in a new context: what if the social tête-à-têtes that make up the "action sequences" in Austen or Brönte exist not because people were uptight back then, but due to immutable facts about dragon physiology?

Reading books like Jane Eyre or Persuasion (yes, I know, Austen isn't actually Victorian, shut it) require a bit of mental exercise because you have to keep remembering context -- the social strictures that bind the women and their reactions to said help define them as characters. But where Anne Elliot has to be careful not to be alone with a man because of what others might think, the female dragons in Tooth & Claw have to watch out because close, romantic contact with a male will cause their scales to shift from gold to pink, signaling the end of their maidenhood.

The story here is nothing new, but rightly so; this stuff needs to be familiar if its going to work. So we've got the death of a patriarch, squabbles over an inheritance, three sisters looking to secure a position, a lawsuit over a perceived slight, a challenge against religious ideals. But instead of a money or land, the inheritance in question is the consumption of said patriarch's corpse. And the sisters need to secure a position... lest they be eaten.

More than just playing with genre, Walton offers a creative new take on dragon lore, with some of the finest world-building I've seen in any fantasy novel, slotting the rules of dragon society into the Victorian-era framework with apparent ease. There's so much to enjoy, things you really don't want to spoil for yourself if you're into this sort of thing. There's a bit about the different wigs a lawyer dragon wears to perform different functions during a court case that made me snort (also, once again, I award bonus points to any book with a courtroom scene that includes an old chestnut like, "This is highly irregular!"). There's a lot of detail about what kind of hats everyone wears, which, DRAGONS in HATS. Fancy hats. The logistics of why dragons sleep on gold and eat their dead are fascinating and amusing. I am hardly a dork for Victorian Lit (to wit: apparently the real source material, per the author, is Anthony Trollope, but I've never read him, though Dickens and Charlotte are also obvious analogues) but the creativity of this book makes it impossible not to appreciate Walton's wit regardless.

I'd hesitate to call it perfect, but it's very near, right down to the narrator, who lapses into the occasional "attentive readers will remember" spiel. And yes, maybe I would prefer a little more acerbic bite a la Jane, but I don't remember a part in any other book where the narrator politely implored the reader not to storm the publisher's office and rend and eat her.


Reading this got me thinking how many Victorian-era novels could be improved through the liberal application of dragons (this idea is totally original, I don't know why you are looking at me that way, Quirk Books). To whit:

1) Jane Eyre: This one is obvious -- Bertha is being kept in the attic hidden chamber not only because she's crazy, but because she is a female dragon that can shoot flame (this is untoward and shocking!). At the end of the book, she burns down the cave and Mr. Rochester loses a wing.

2) Wuthering Heights: Heathcliffe can just go ahead and eat Catherine's corpse and stop whining over her grave already. You share the same soul, why not share the same body, eh?

3) Bleak House: After lingering on for decades, the lawsuit of Jarndyce and Jarndyce comes to a sudden and unexpected end when the claimants on both sides fight and kill one another in open court and are eaten by the serving class.

4) Tess of the D'Urbervilles: Only Tess is a dragon, and she eats Alec Stoke-d'Urberville and claims his title. She then marries the local parson, Angel Clare, but eats him too, because he is a pantywaist. Tess becomes Queen of the Dragons.
Profile Image for Jo Walton.
Author 79 books2,852 followers
May 20, 2018
This was recently published in France, and I'm at Etonnants Voyageurs, a Franch literary festival where they always want you to talk abour your most recent book, in detail. Since I wrote this in 2002 and didn't re-read it since the proofs of the mass market paperback in 2005, I thought I'd better re-read it to refamiliarize myself with it.

I found some errors that I'd tweak if redoing proofs, but felt no desire to rewrite. And on the whole I liked it. It's funny and gruesome, and the voice is clever and this is the book where I did manage to make a going-down-like-ninepins ending sort of work. Some things were a bit clunky, but really I think it's fun. And it was pretty much unique when I did it, even though there is now a huge category of similar stuff. But if you want to persuade French people to buy it, you just have to tell them all the characters are dragons. "Tout? Tout les characters? Vraiment?" Yeah, they're really all dragons. I thought that was a good idea at the time, that's why."
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 168 books37.5k followers
April 2, 2015
"She'd like me to bring a dragon home, I suppose. It would serve her right if I did, some creature that would make the house intolerable to her."

This quote, found at the beginning of Tooth and Claw, is from Anthony Trollope's novel Framley Parsonage, published monthly through 1860-1 in Cornhill Magazine, a new periodical aimed at the family market.

Framley Parsonage, for those genre readers who haven't dipped much past the Freshman Lit toehold in the vast ocean of 19th century novels, comes more or less in the middle of Trollope's Barsetshire series, which follow the lives of a set of primarily gentry and ecclesiastical families in an imaginary English county.

Framley Parsonage was considered by many reviewers and readers of the time to be a pleasant, pastoral tale, to contrast with the fraughtly moody writings of the likes of Wilkie Collins, also popular at the time. The quote Walton chose (printed below a splendid poem by Tennyson from the same period) was spoken by Lord Lufton, a disgruntled young aristocrat, about his mother. This respectable lady had her sights on a daughter-in-law who would bring a fortune, if not titled relatives, to her marriage with her son; the son wanted to marry Lucy, the penniless sister of his best friend, Mark Robards, a parson.

Trollope somewhat disingenuously claimed that there was no heroism and no villainy in his novel. Mrs. Gaskell, wife of a minister and writer of the poignant Cranford and the sublime Wives and Daughters, wrote that she wished it would "go on for ever and ever."

When I first read Framley Parsonage, it did not strike me as gentle, idyllic, or pastoral. It was a book about ambition. Not one major character in it lacked ambition; what varied were the goals and just how far people were willing to go to attain those goals. Sowerby, the bankrupt owner of a great estate, connived with legal blackmail to get money enough to stanch the bleeding away of his patrimony; Griselda Grantly, the beauty of the countryside, coldly and deliberately sold herself to a fabulously wealthy, titled dolt so that she could reign above everyone as a Marchioness.

I mention this novel at length not because Walton has mapped her fantasy directly over it, but because she hasn't. The opening of Tooth and Claw is a deathwatch over an old dragon, Bon Agornin; the equivalent story-point, the death of Mark Robards' father, occurs a hundred pages into Framley Parsonage, takes place off-stage, and of course does not feature the old pastor's children crowding round to eat his body before it has cooled.

Tooth and Claw -- ambition. Though Trollope acknowledged a "little tuft-hunting" in his book, meaning social climbing, the modern reader will be struck how pervasive rank is in every aspect of life, even in the way that the strange, fiery parson Crawley cannot visit his old friend who has been promoted above him. There is a secondary thread through the novel wherein the question of the morality of a parson hunting is considered; it seems to occur to no one that a lot of people on horseback, aided by a pack of dogs, chasing after a lone fox in order to tear it to pieces is cruel. The question has to do with how seemly it is for a parson to be partaking in a pleasure-sport reserved for aristocrats.

The ritual of eating a dead dragon is what launches the story in Tooth and Claw. Bon's powerful and demanding son-in-law, the Illustrious Daverak, takes more than his share for his own family, despite the wishes of Bon and the claims of Bon's other children, the Blessed Penn (the counterpart to Mark Robards), Avan, the brother who works in the city, and the two younger maiden sisters, Selendra and Haner.

Avan decides the next day to institute a lawsuit against Daverak. Meanwhile Selendra sustains an unlucky marriage proposal from the obsequious Blessed Frelt, the local divine, after which the household is split up, Haner going to live with Daverak and Berend (her older sister) and Selendra to live with the Blessed Penn and his wife and dragonets.

This lawsuit is the backbone of the story, to which we keep returning. Avan lives with a delightful and mysterious female dragon named Sebeth who works with him in the city's planning commission -- and who is a secret member of the Old Religion. Yes, religion plays a part in Jo Walton's work, as it does in the Victorian novel, but Walton does not settle for the easy parody of organized religion, made up of fools and fakes, that has become a standard in much genre fiction today.

Interspersed between scenes concerning the lawsuit we visit Penn's household, where Selendra and Sher Benandi meet. As in Trollope's novel they make friends instantly, he by showing compassion, and she by responding to it; another shared plot-point is how Sher's mother, the Exalt Benandi, tries to control her son's life and select a suitable mate for him. Gelener Telstie is as beautiful as her counterpart, Griselda Grantly, as calculating and dull. But even so, the stories overlap here just to wing away again over landscapes that only match at key points; Gelener's fate is not at all like Griselda's.

The veneer of civilization over savagery is one of the these touchpoints. Walton's dragons, despite their titles, their trains, their fancy hats, are not the literary equivalent of cheery plush toys. It would have been easy enough to use the Victorian novel as background for a work of whimsy, but one of the pleasures of Tooth and Claw is the world building. The hats serve social and even legal purpose, the trains haul platforms for dragons to ride on. When these dragons eat, they do not use dragonish teeth to sip tea from porcelain cups, they tear apart their meat, splashing themselves with blood, and channels run down the sides of proper dining rooms to drain off the residue of their meals. Males have claws and can breathe fire, females do not. Females write, males only with difficulty because of those claws. Females mate knowing that a clutch of dragonets can kill them.

The book is filled with wonderful touches, glimpses of a world with a past that one wishes would be illuminated in more stories. The narrator, who can see into everyone's head just as in Victorian novels, employs heraldic terms to illuminate the dragons' movements. The echoes from Trollope's novel add polysemous levels to this reading experience without revealing everything about the ending.

Can this book be enjoyed by readers not familiar with Trollope's novel? Of course it can. No one needs to be familiar with Victorian literature to enjoy a well-written story about dragons. The pacing is masterful, the characters distinctive, the climax exciting. On finishing this book, a reader might very well wish to seek out Trollope's novel-and then come back to read Tooth and Claw again.

February 9, 2021
💥 Feb. 8, 2021: Only $2.99 today! (Read it at your own risk and stuff.)

Trollope meets Austen meets boring as fish dragons. How delightfully captivating indeed.

Quite so, my dear Albertina, quite so.

What very-oh-so-slightly pisses me a little off is that this book could have been quite delicious indeed. I mean, bloody shrimping dragons! As the characters in a Victorian drama! So much potential for glorious scrumptiousness here! Only that there wasn’t a quarter of a third of a half inch of scrumptiousness to be had here. Mainly because the fact that the characters are dragons add absolutely nothing to the story. And when I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. (As in, um, you know, naught, zilch, nada and stuff.)

Now now, Gustav, don’t be like that. You know I have nothing against you personally and stuff. Maybe.

If the author wasn’t there to constantly remind you that the members of her cast fly, sleep in caves, have tails, hoard gold and blah blah blah, you’d completely forget that they’re not human. Some barnacles might argue that I am quite full of fish to make such an outrageous assertion, and that the characters couldn’t possibly NOT be dragons, since they have somewhat cannibalistic tendencies. (Now that I very much approve of.) Only that I don’t see what that has to do with anything. I mean, why the bloody stinking shrimp would it be logical and natural and reasonable for dragons to be anthropophagous, but not for humans? You Little Barnacles obviously have never set foot in New Guinea. I have some lovely Korowai friends there, and believe you me, their idea of a snack is not exactly vegan-approved.

See what I mean?

Anyhoo and stuff. For all its potential lusciousness, I guess you could say that this story turned out to be naught but a lacklustre, unoriginal Victorian drama/romance/whatever rip-off with no charm, no bite and no wit. Yes, I guess you could say that. My my my, it looks like we have quite the winner in our little pincers here! So yay and stuff!

Nefarious Last Words (NLW™): the next one I want to read about Victorian shenanigans, I’ll read actual Victorian shenanigans. And the next time I want to read Trollope, I’ll read actual Trollope. And the next time I want to read Austen, I’ll read actual Austen. And the next time I want to read about dragons I’ll pick up Temeraire where I bloody shrimping left off three years ago and how could I because Temeraire is titillating yummilicious as fish I can be so fishing clueless sometimes I cannot fishing believe it you may breathe now if you wish and if you don’t fine by me it’s your puny life and stuff you are quite welcome.

P.S. The next time I want to have me some delicious Victorian Tooth & Claw cocktail, I’ll watch the Good Doctor, thank you berry much.

[Pre-review nonsense]

Well this was quite thrilling, thank you very much indeed.

Quite so.

Full review to come and stuff.

P.S. My dear Tony Mr Trollope, I am slightly a little put out on your behalf and stuff.

[May 2018]

Dragons meet Victorian drama?! YES, bloody shrimping please!!

Also, this book is super fishing cheap, so yay and stuff!

P.S. Thank thee kindly, Miriam, for mentioning this one to me! I shall forever be full of grate!
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,943 followers
June 11, 2020
Este libro es todo lo que me gusta.

No será para todo el mundo pero yo he amado cada página... Que ya lo veía venir porque 'Entre extraños' es un libro muy especial para mi, pero de verdad Jo Walton no deja de sorprenderme.
Y que quede claro que este libro no tiene nada que ver con 'Entre extraños' ni en cómo está escrito ni en lo que cuenta.
A 'Garras y colmillos' se lo define como JANE AUSTEN + DRAGONES, y aunque tiene mucho de Jane Austen la autora comentó que se había inspirado mucho más en Trollope, y a mi particularmente me recordó muchísimo a 'Las torres de Barchester'.
La historia arranca con la muerte del padre eminente de una familia de clase alta pero con pocos posibles, así pues cuando el padre muere los cinco hijos toman caminos diferentes. Las dos hijas menores deben separarse: una irá a vivir con la familia de su hermano mayor (un párroco) y la otra con la familia de su hermana casada (ahora en una clase muy superior al resto de su familia), mientras que el hijo pequeño volverá a su trabajo en la gran ciudad, tratando de salir adelante por sus propios medios.
Y la novela es eso, una historia de enredos salpicada con muchísimo trasfondo social y político en el que iremos comprendiendo poco a poco cómo funciona ese mundo tan parecido a la Inglaterra Victoriana pero en el que los protagonistas son dragones.
Y jamás se te olvida que son dragones porque aunque las costumbres y las clases sociales se parezcan mucho a las que ya conoccemos, también hay infinidad de detalles relacionados con la propia cultura e Historia de este mundo de dragones. Detalles a veces más obvios (como las dificultades para moverse en una cuenva estrecha de un dragón de 10 metros o las salpicaduras de sangre que se les queda en la ropa después de comer) y otros mucho más sutiles (como los dragones sirvientes, que están obligados a llevar las alas atadas y tienen prohibido volar o cómo al morir un dragón la familia se comerá el cadáver para coger fuerzas y crecer).
Son muchísimos los detalles que vamos descubriendo poquito a poco gracias a la habilidad de Walton para contar todo lo necesario siempre en el momento adecuado y en su justa medida.
En fin, he disfrutado una barbaridad de este libro porque me creí que estaba leyendo una novela victoriana pero con ese toque de imaginación desbordante, con un mundo increíblemente bien construido y sutil, único y genial.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
Want to read
May 19, 2020
I'm always delighted when Tor's free eBook of the Month Club comes up with a book that was already on my TBR list! Here's this month's offering, about the lives and times of a family of dragons. Jo Walton is an excellent author so I have high hopes.

Available to download for free until midnight ET, May 22. Sign up for the book club and download the book here: https://ebookclub.tor.com/
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,975 followers
February 18, 2020
This complex novel finally answers the age-old question of what would a Regency-Era romance look like if all the characters were dragons.

No, this isn't a Novak novel. This came out before. Indeed, this was popular enough to win the World Fantasy Award and it is well-deserved.

Far from being a gimmick, the core 'tail' tackles all the original Austen-like social criticisms such as inheritance law, marriage customs, a Pride and Prejudice level of anxiety, quips, and misunderstandings, the full issue of religious practice, slavery, and it even drags the Regency into a modern-era level of Equality.

As a novel about Dragons.

Hell, it succeeds on both levels. If you love Regency novels and you love dragons, I'm certain you and this novel are going to get along famously.

I particularly liked the inheritance issue. I mean, the peeps in England never LITERALLY let their families eat old, dear papa... :)

Profile Image for Ferdy.
944 reviews1,111 followers
August 13, 2015

I can see why Tooth and Claw was described as the Pride and Prejudice of the dragon world. There were times where I felt like I was reading an Austen novel, a very bizarre Austen novel with church going, hat wearing, high society, cannibal dragons.

-Took a while to immerse into the story and get used to the world. The beginning was rather slow and not much seemed to happen apart from a lot of waiting and monologuing.

-The world building and setting was very impressive (for the most part). The different social classes, religion, family dynamics, and the rights and privileges of females/males/aristocracy/servants closely mirrored that of the Victorian era, but with a unique dragon twist to them. There were some aspects of the world though which was difficult to imagine, such as the dragons riding trains/carriages, wearing wigs and fancy hats, doing paperwork, and drinking beer. It was too human - I don't know how they were able to do half the things they did when they had claws (which aren't exactly dexterous). Even with that though, it all worked well enough.

-There were some unique touches which I thought were brilliant. Such as the eating of dragons by family members after death (as consuming dragon flesh would make them stronger and bigger), the dragon lords killing and eating the weak dragons (even the babies) in their demesne, the parsons eating the eyes of dead dragons as some kind of religious ritual, the females permanently blushing pink/red with any close contact from a non-related male (and that causing all kinds of disgrace and problems if unmarried), and the whole changing wig business in court (which was hilarious). All those little and not so little things made the world really fascinating and rich.

-Enjoyed the central arc/conflict of Daverak eating his father-in-law's body instead of letting Haner/Selendra/Avan take what they were owed. It was great how it connected and drove the story and characters together.

-There was a quite a lot of family and religious politics throughout, some of it was kind of repetitive, but on the whole it was really interesting to read all about the various politics, structure and etiquette of the dragon society.

-Most of the characters were thoroughly unlikeable, the only ones I really liked were Felin, Sebeth and Berend. They were easy to root for, had common sense and weren't precocious little snowflakes. That said, I didn't mind the unlikeable characters that much, most of them were entertaining.

-I hated Haner and Selendra though, they were so self-centered and horrid (especially with how they treated their sister Berend), I wouldn't have minded that so much if they hadn't been utterly boring as well. Their POV's really bought the story down for me, all their parts were unbelievably slow, whiny and dull.
Haner's reaction to Berend's death in particular irked me, she was more concerned about her own problems than her sister dying in childbirth (I suppose I was meant to feel sorry for her but I didn't). She was a complete cow. And Selendra was a boring Mary Sue (as much as dragons can be Mary Sues) who everyone fawned over. It was only her future mother-in-law (Exalt Benandi) who hated her, and even that wasn't satisfying since Selendra ended up putting her in her place by the end. Ugh, I was hoping that the Exalt would somehow fuck her over.

-I wanted some comeuppance for that rapey Frelt fucker, the fact he ended up with his dream wife took the piss. I hated him more than Daverak.

-Thought it was funny how the yarge turned out to be humans, I expected that to be the case, but I loved how it was confirmed at the end with the Exalt Benandi being so thoroughly terrified and disgusted when she saw the yarge ambassador (and how flat and small he was), it was definitely my favourite scene.

-What was with those stones Selendra/Wontas/Sher saw after they escaped the cave? I thought something would come of them but nothing happened. Were they actually yarge or dragons or a threat or something?

-How did dragons dance without touching each other or being in close proximity to each other? Shouldn't all the females have turned pink just by dancing? Or was the dancing done at a far distance or something? It wasn't ever explained.

Definitely an entertaining read for anyone who'd want an Austen/cannibal dragon mash up of sorts.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
May 26, 2021
Smaug, Mushu, Drogon, Spyro and Denton Van Zan sit at a table playing Basements and Humans and discussing Jo Walton’s 2003 novel Tooth and Claw.

Mushu (rolling a 20 sided die) – Saving throw – YES! My fifth level lawyer’s objection is sustained! Take that Van Zan, guess you don’t get to kill this dragon today!

Van Zan: Alright, alright, alright. At least we’re fighting, not enough action in Walton’s book for this ax wielder.

Drogon: Not enough action? My word, Walton’s depiction of dragonkind is urbane and civilized, an artful retelling of a Victorian romance, it was delicious.

Spyro: Says the genocidal destroyer of cities …

Drogon: One city and they had it coming, for goodness sakes!

Smaug: Walton’s world building was fun, with hierarchical classes, a master – servant caste system, oh and she makes us out to be cannibalistic.

Drogon: It happens.

Van Zan: It was fun, I’ll grant that, and having the tension of bigger dragons frequently culling the herds made for a dramatic tension, and kept if from being too much of a chick book, but it’s still a Victorian drama. I’ll also allow that her depiction of bound winged dragons as servants / slaves added a social allegory that was worth reading.

Spyro: With dragons! That’s what made it special.

Mushu: But was that enough? Could have used some song and dance. The social intrigue was good, but I’ll agree with Denton that this was a good idea, but maybe not enough to hold a novel together, maybe this would have been a good short story.

Drogon: I must most respectfully, but vehemently disagree. This did after all win the coveted World Fantasy Award for best novel in 2004, this was imaginative and brilliantly designed.

Van Zan: I’m not saying it’s not a good book and yes, very imaginative, just not enough action. It was disconcerting having an all-dragon cast. I liked the way the dragons know humans as Yarge, I wonder if that’s from people yelling “Yarg!” when they saw dragons.

Smaug: Says they dragonphobic bigot.

Van Zan: What? I love you guys!

Drogon: Not sure that we love you though.

Van Zan: It’d be a lot cooler if you did.

Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 31 books5,631 followers
October 26, 2014
People keep referring to this novel as "Jane Austen with dragons" which is misleading . . . it's not Jane Austen, it's Anthony Trollope, as Walton says in the acknowledgements. The difference? Well, for those of you who haven't read Trollope (myself included) this is a Victorian novel, not Regency. In fact, I thought the whole time that it had strong shades of Charles Dickens in it. Family strife, extreme stress on rank and duty, wives giving up their personal preferences in order to support their husbands . . . it's all there. Only these are dragons. Dragons, talking about the suitability of this or that marriage, issues with their estate, as they feast on raw meat in a dining room that has blood gutters cut into the floor. Dragons, wearing respectable hats with little veils and turning down social engagements because they are in mourning. It's genius, it's hilarious, it's moving, it's a true feat on the part of the author! Despite their physical and social differences from anything I'd encountered before, the characters were still endearing, or irritating, or angering. I was rooting for the young, nearly dowerless sisters to make good matches, pulling for Avan to successfully sue his brother-in-law for taking too much of his father's legacy . . . of course, that legacy was how much of his father the brother-in-law ATE. The contrast between the staid respectability of the dragons and the fact that they ate their dead, and sometimes the living who were too weak, could have become ridiculous, but instead it made it all the more poignant. These are dragons, "red in tooth and claw", and yet they've backed themselves into trap with their extreme manners and social mores. This is a truly gripping read, and I recommend it for anyone, whether or not you like "dragon books" or Jane Austen. Or Anthony Trollope (whose books I am now eager to try).
Profile Image for Sanaa.
412 reviews2,554 followers
August 18, 2015
[4.5 Stars] This was really spectacular! It's a Victorian drama populated with dragons instead of people, definitely my kind of book. I think what I loved most about this was how dragon lore and mythology was transformed to work with Victorian societal customs. Seriously, it's eerie how well everything worked together even though it was definitely a bit weird. The victorian drama plot was also really splendid, and I could never figure out what was going to happen next! It definitely has a touch of Austen and Heyer in the writing and overall felt like you were reading a proper Victorian novel, but it didn't rehash well known plots which was great. If there is one problem I had with the book is that it did read a little slow at times, and I do wish the book had delved a bit further in the details along with delving more into some of the characters. Overall though I really enjoyed this and would recommend this for lovers of Victorian dramas and fantasy and dragons and fans of the fantasy of manners genre. It was so good!
Profile Image for Olivia.
709 reviews120 followers
April 4, 2018
This is unlike anything I've ever read in fantasy.

If Jane Austen, or maybe Charles Dickens, felt the sudden urge to write a fantasy book about dragons, this is probably what they would have written.

It has everything: daughters who need to marry, a lost inheritance, etiquette, romance, a greedy family member, a confession, and charming characters. Only...they're all dragons. And they also eat each other.

If any of that sounds at all intriguing to you, please pick this up. It's short, charming, witty and heartwarming.

Jo Walton takes dragon lore and mythology and makes it work with the customs in Victorian society. The world building is delightful. The characters are charming. The society is, frankly, amusing. We've got lords and ladies, only they're all dragons (did I mention everyone in this book is a dragon? But they sit at tables, drink tea and travel in carriages. Just making sure, I definitely mentioned that.) and they all attempt to thrive in society either via their profession or the partner they choose to marry. They go to church, they have servants, oh and, they eat the weak and the ill to better their race. Dragon meat helps smaller dragons grow, only to eat, you must already be big and strong...and please don't forget to wear the proper hat.

I've enjoyed this read a lot and recommend it to fans of the Classics just as much as I recommend it to fantasy fans.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,432 reviews543 followers
March 6, 2012
No longer will I sigh that the Victorians didn't write fantasy: Walton has done it for them! When an old dragon patriarch dies, his relatives gather round to split his treasure—-and devour his body. The plot concerns the ensuing law suit, several love affairs and a growing spirit of revolution, yet each of the characters are well drawn and believable. Walton does an excellent job of mixing a familiar romance plot with politics and the occasional alien aspects of dragon society. She says this novel is "the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology." An example: the scales of dragon maidens who have too much contact with dragon males blush red, leaving their "disgrace" obvious to the world.
Profile Image for Alissa.
617 reviews85 followers
December 28, 2019
Ah, the comfort of gentle hypocrisy!!

What a complex society! A fantasy of manners starring ambitious dragons? Dragons addressing quarrels through law? Dragons debating about religion and navigating the intricacies of the marriage market?

This is unlike everything I've ever read, and I enjoyed both the worldbuilding and the many intrigues surrounding the Argonin family. Top that with clever storytelling and masterful writing, and you have quality hours of reading ahead.

4.5 stars rounded down because I love nitpicking :D
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 27 books24 followers
December 17, 2008
I have no real issue with the characters in this book being dragons, but the fact that some of them were described as 60 feet long yet they still went about in carriages (more than one dragon per carriage!) and sat at dinner tables kept causing pretty significant difficulties for my imagination.

It wasn't really helped when they wore hats.

A different species would probably have improved the book. Less cannibalism would have been preferable, too.
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
April 16, 2019
* I read this as my Transfiguration book for the OWLs readathon *

This story is an unexpected surprise as it's basically fantasy of manners with a whole lot of family politics but everyone is a dragon. There is commentary on slavery and brutality in the culture of dragonkind, but there is also a lot of love and care between the family members we follow. This story is l about hypocrisy and older civilisations and rules and regulations, but it's also a very inventive tale and one I enjoyed a lot.

Some of the characters we follow are Sel, Garner, Penn and Aver. They are all siblings and when their father dies his body is eaten by all, but not as his wishes decreed. This causes a rift in the family and from there the story unfolds.

What I liked about this is that it feels very easy to enjoy and yet there are some good discussions within its pages about slavery and religion and love. There's quite a few small moments which I enjoyed and although it's not a novel with a lot of excitement and it has a narrow focus it's done well.

Definitely think I'll read more Walton as I've now read 3 titles by her and enjoyed 2 of them very much. 4*s from me.
Profile Image for Tijana.
736 reviews193 followers
May 16, 2018
Od svih SF/F pisaca koje znam, Džo Volton je valjda ta kod koje se najizrazitije prepoznaje početna zamisao iz koje je izrasla cela knjiga. U ovom slučaju to je bila ideja "a šta da uzmem ovaj konkretni roman Entonija Trolopa, Framley Parsonage, i preradim ga tako da su svi likovi zmajevi a viktorijanska kultura zmajevska kultura u kojoj su svi običaji i biologija i... ma sve... postvarene metafore viktorijanskog svetonazora?"

I onda je sela i sprovela to tačku po tačku, tako da umesto deobe nasledstva imamo podelu očevog tela (jer zmajevi rastu i jačaju od zmajevskog mesa) a sluge i sveštenstvo idu naokolo vezanih krila umesto da lete, a devojke su bele i poružičaste kad se prvi put seksualno uzbude (po mogućstvu prilikom veridbe, inače skandal) a tokom života i nošenja jaja polako poprimaju crvenu boju. I sve je to super i interesantno i kritika viktorijanskog društva (nije da nam je baš bila neophodna još jedna) i često istančano duhovito, a bogme i bar jedna ljubavna priča je vrlo pristojno izvedena, sve u svemu ovaj neobični eksperiment je ljubak, kratak i vrlo uspešan.

Moj jedini problem zapravo je vezan za to što sam Trolopa uvek doživljavala kao smrtno dosadnog, smrtno samozadovoljnog malograđanina, i izgurala samo jednu njegovu smrtno dosadnu i malograđansku knjigu (Tutor), pa mi je za sve vreme čitanja u glavi bilo pitanje "što baš njega, što ne nekog boljeg" ali pošto je odgovor na to svakako da mnogo bolje knjige ne treba popravljati onda zapravo ne znam što sam se žalila.
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews1,984 followers
March 23, 2013
Originally reviewed on The Book Smugglers


Ana's Take

When I first thought about how to I could describe Tooth and Claw in a way that truly conveyed its level of awesomeness, I could only think of: “it’s a Jane Austenesque novel with Dragons. Cannibal Dragons”. On second thought though, although that line does more or less captures the gist of it, it is not quite right. Tooth and Claw is, after all, more Victorian than Regency.

Eating each other is at the centre of this society – it’s what dragons fear the most, and what they most look forward to. Dragon meat is not only delicious but so nutritious as to make whoever digests it literally bigger. The bigger the dragon, the stronger it is and the more important in the grander social scheme of things. But of course, only dragons who are already significant (in terms of their size and in their social standing) manage to eat other dragons. It’s a vicious circle that seems impossible to break. The “why” is also important: weaklings, sickly and older dragons are eaten so that the race can be bettered (and so that other dragons have enough dragon meat to go on) and dead dragon’s meat is divided between the members of their families according to a Will that stipulates the amount that each family member will devour or depending on - again – social standing.

The novel opens with Bon Agornin’s on his deathbed and his devastated family getting ready to eat his remains. There is the matter of an expressed Will in which the bulk of his remains is to be divided between his three youngest children Avan (who lives and works in the city), Selendra and Haner (both young maidens). But his expressed wishes are contested by his ambitious son-in-law, who wins the argument and takes a greater portion. The three younger dragons – who have already lost their father, their home and who have little gold to their name –are now unable to even grow on their expected inheritance. This precipitates one of the main arcs in the book, as Avan decides to sue his brother-in-law.

And that’s what makes Tooth and Claw a delight: it is about bloody dragons, who might eat each other but please, let’s all be proper about it, and follow the rules and wear the right hats (ha, dragons wearing hats).

Because propriety and order rule this world, and the social structure of their society is set in stone and hardly questioned. There is extreme importance given to being a maiden and women’s lives can be ruined in one single moment. Those in service have no expectations other than remain in service until they die (or get eaten) and those who are male and rich can basically get away with anything. And in a way, it is all very familiar except for how far the author takes those. So a maiden is no longer a maiden when she blushes: a mere touch by a non-family member will do it and her new pink colour is a sign for all to see. The dragons who work in service cannot fly, their wings bound, their movements restricted.

Tooth and Claw is a novel where the word literally has a whole new meaning (figuratively, speaking of course). It is a very interesting exploration of familiar themes of gender and class oppression in a way that makes that oppression literally visible (although not necessarily more real).

It is not all seriousness, blood and guts though, for Tooth and Claw is also a comedy of manners! With a delightful omniscient narrator and a focus on the three youngest Agornins and their lives. Avan who is a nice chap who shares his life with a young female dragon who is not a maiden making their association a complicated thing. Selendra and Haner are both in the marriage market, each learning to stand on their own feet after being separated into very two different households. There is a clear divide between the structured, inflexible older generation and this new generation full of forward-thinking ideas.

And there is even - yes, I think I shall use the word - swoonworthy romance and awesome relationships. And this is where the novel is at its most Jane Austenesque as Selendra and Haner have a little bit of all Jane Austen heroines in them. Plus, there is a male dragon called Sher that ….I shall say no more, dear reader. Some delights are better experienced without advance notice.

Tooth and Claw is as close to perfect a book can be. I loved it.

Thea's Take:

I am at a loss when it comes to attempting to describe Tooth and Claw. Allow me take Ana's words, to emphasize the awesome: Tooth and Claw is absolutely Jane Austen-esque, but with dragons. Take the social mores, the gender roles and restrictions, the foibles of Austen's work, but blend that with cannibalistic dragons with their own laws of propriety and social strata - then and only then will you get even a close approximation to Tooth and Claw.

For me, the strongest and most compelling part of the novel (the first I've had the pleasure of reading from Jo Walton) is its worldbuilding. This is a world strikingly similar to Regency England (well, yaknow, if society comprised dragons exclusively) - there are lords and ladies, daughters who must rely on their dowries in order to make a good match and thrive in society. There are servants and pastors and those born into money and status, just as there are those who must fight tooth and claw (oho!) for their way in the world. But, unlike Regency England, in this society, weakness - green colored dragons, small dragons, ailing little children, or the elderly, or the oppressed - equates to instant death. Those dragons deemed too weak to live will be killed and immediately eaten by others, their lifeforce fueling the dining dragon's size and power.

Oh, yes, there is magic too, for these are talking dragons and flying dragons. And for all that they are civilized creatures with a hierarchical society mimics an oft romanticized period in human history, they are also dragons. They dine on raw flesh and on each other, adding a level of frightening alien-ness to this particular world. The most fascinating aspect of the particular world, to me? The "blush" of dragon females when they are leaned on by male dragons - it's a terrifying and fascinating physical manifestation of "impure" females that examines agency and choice in such a smart, brilliant way through these female dragons. When Selendra is accosted by the amorous advances of an old family friend who professes his love for Selendra and intends to make her his bride, she turns from maiden gold to bridal pink - to her great horror, for she refuses his advances. To society, a pink dragon is one that has accepted the embrace of a male, and if not affianced, such a dragoness is ruined (and likely eaten later).

In many ways, Tooth and Claw is a kind of explication of our own world, a hyperbolic reflection of the flaws in our history and society. The concept of absurd creatures exposing the flaws is a familiar one (see Amberville, or any number of robot/zombie/vampire type fiction), Walton's choice of dragons is, frankly, unparalleled. I cannot think of a book that does it better.

My only criticism of the novel is how leisurely and meandering it is - and this is not exactly a bad thing. Not every book needs to be a white-knuckle thrill ride, and Tooth and Claw is definitely more of a beautiful scenic tour than a roller coaster. I loved the characters, and I loved the story of their lives that unfolds following their esteemed father's death. I only wish there was more of a force driving the novel forward. As Ana and I discussed when thinking about this book, my only issue with Tooth and Claw can be boiled down to the same reason I *love* Jane Austen's books so much: the heroines. I love the heroines in Austen's work - from Lizzie to Emma to Anne to Marianne and Elinor. Tooth and Claw is very much in the spirit of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood (both of whom I love dearly)... but while sisters Selendra and Hanner (and Berend! Who actually was my favorite of the sisters) are wonderful characters, I didn't fall in love with them the same way that I root wholeheartedly for an Austin heroine. If that makes any sense at all.

Ultimately, Tooth and Claw is a brilliant, beautiful book. I loved it and highly recommend it - and I cannot wait to read more from Jo Walton very, very soon.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews656 followers
May 19, 2014
When I first read the description of this book I was skeptical. And perhaps suspicious. Definitely intrigued. This attempts to rectify the main problem of Victorian novels, namely, the lack of dragons. Your reaction is probably fairly similar to mine. Victorian novel...with dragons? Well, I have to say that I was entirely won over, and came out of the book wondering why no one had ever put those obviously needed dragons into a Victorian novel before. (I was reading this at the same time as Sense and Sensibility, and trust me, that made for a weird mix.)

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Lizzie (TwoFaceLizzie).
91 reviews364 followers
May 22, 2022
Je referme à peine ce livre... que dire...
Il s'agit d'une romance "à la Jane Austen" dans laquelle les protagonistes principaux sont des dragons. Plutôt très fan de Jane et aimant la fantasy, je me suis laissée tenter, même si le pitch de départ était un peu particulier.

J'ai commencé ce livre à Aix-les-Bains, après un week-end à me faire masser et profiter du spa de mon hôtel. Tout allait bien, je me posais sur une chaise confortable au soleil pour lire en attendant mes amies qui se faisaient masser à leur tour. Des pigeons se sont approchés de moi et ont commencé faire leurs petites affaires à cinquante centimètres de mes pieds. Je n'étais pas très contente, j'avoue, je les ai fait gentiment se déplacer en bougeant mes jambes et ils ont fini par ken deux mètres plus loin.
Tout ça pour dire que je connais maintenant le principe de la sexualité des pigeons.
Et que vu la tronche des dragons, ils doivent procéder tout à fait de la même manière.
Et que je n'accepte pas d'imaginer ça dans mon crâne.
Que je ne serai plus jamais la même après cette information.
Et je me suis rendu compte de ça à la toute fin du livre, en me disant "heureusement que ce n'est pas de la romance érotique avec des dragons, imagine le bordel" (je connais l'existence du dinop*rn alors... pourquoi pas avec des dragons ?). Et ça m'a rappelé que j'ai lu les premières pages du livres en voyant des pigeons copuler.
La boucle est bouclée.

2 / 5 parce que, vraiment, des dragons à poil, c'est oui, mais des dragons à poil avec des CHAPEAUX, c'est non.
J'ai tellement haussé les sourcils que je dois avoir de nouvelles rides sur le front.
Au plaisir de découvrir à nouveau des crossovers de genres.
Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews508 followers
August 17, 2014

I have yet to be disappointed by Jo Walton. In addition to this novel, I've loved the alternate reality of Farthing and its sequels, the pastoral fantasy of Lifelode and the coming of age story of Among Others. All of these novels are distinguished by Walton's intelligent prose, deft characterisation and ability to create strange, yet completely believable fictional worlds.

The premise of this particular work sounds silly: it's written in the style of a Victorian novel, but the characters are dragons. Dragons who wear hats, fly or don't fly depending on their occupation and status, sleep on gold and eat their deceased relatives and dragons weaker than themselves. At its heart the novel is a family drama, complete with the death of the patriarch, dissension within the family about his legacy, legal proceedings and love affairs. Its characters are landowners, servants, bureacrats, lawyers, ministers of religion, women looking for love and women developing and acting upon their growing social conscience.

If this wasn't written by Jo Walton and recommended to me by a GR friend whose taste I trust, I probably wouldn't have picked it up. However, as odd as it sounds, Jo Walton makes it work. She used the novels of Anthony Trollope as an inspiration, although there are also faint echos of Jane Austen in a disagreeable parson and a lady of the manor who ever so slightly brings to mind Lady Catherine de Bourgh. There's nothing gimmicky in the writing: the world building is so good that the reader is completely drawn in.

If there's a weakness in the novel, it's that the conflict is resolved rather too quickly at the end. I'd put this down to Walton making a deliberate choice to emulate the conventions of the Victorian novel in which no loose ends are left hanging, but I also felt that Walton wrapped up things too abruptly in "Among Others". In any event, if it is a weakness, it didn't destroy my very real enjoyment of the work.

I've not read Trollope and I'm undecided about whether Walton has made me want to do so, but I'm certainly tempted, if only to recognise the source material.
Profile Image for Althea Ann.
2,232 reviews1,016 followers
June 15, 2012
Do you think that the concept of reading a Victorian novel where all the characters just happen to be dragons sounds like the most clever thing you've heard since last season? Well then, this book is for you.
I picked this up since Walton just won the Nebula, and I realized I'd never read anything by her. I thought I had, but realized that was Clayton, Jo, not Walton, Jo. (I do that a lot.) Very different authors. 'Tooth and Claw' won both the World Fantasy and the Campbell awards. It is a very well crafted book. It's both an homage to and a satire of Victorian novels. Walton states that it 'owes a lot to' the book 'Framley Parsonage,' which I haven't read, so I can't say how closely it follows it.
However, although this is very well done, it's not the book for me. It just seemed a little too gimmicky, a bit too tongue-in-cheek without being actually humorous. The plot revolves entirely around issues of social standing, inheritance and marital arrangements. It started out slowly, but by the end I was reasonably drawn in to the fates of these characters (which are all tied up neatly and traditionally at the conclusion.) If you are entertained by the concept of these sorts of social issues being worried over by huge, cannibalistic, fire-breathing reptiles… who also love to wear absurdly decorative hats… go for it.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
November 22, 2014
I had a vague recollection of not really liking this book as much as Jo Walton's other work. Then I reread it in approximately five seconds flat (well, a little more than that, maybe). As people have noted, my original review called this Austen-esque, whereas Jo makes it clear in the book itself that no, the influence is much more from Trollope. Not that I've read anything by Trollope, and there are aspects here reminiscent of Austen.

Before I write any more about this, let me just pause to be very amused that often the same people complaining the dragons are too human-like (wearing hats) complain that the dragons aren't (modern Western) human-like enough for their taste (socially acceptable cannibalism after someone dies).

The thing I really enjoyed about Tooth and Claw, this time round as much as last time, was the complex history and social background there is to this story, which you don't have to know about, but which is there. The world isn't just a paper thin homage to Trollope; there's a lot more going on, a whole geography and history and philosophy which shapes the story and gives the dragons life. The homage to Trollope is there, sure, but Jo also looked at it and changed what needed to be changed to make the dragon society feel real -- lacy hats or no.

This time, I finished the book feeling glad that it's a self-contained story which concludes within one book, because fantasy trilogies are getting out of hand these days, but also wondering very much about the background of the world, about events before and after the only somewhat personally significant events of this story. That's something I love to leave a book wondering, because it means that the world wasn't just created for the story, but the story takes place within the world.
Profile Image for Jonathan Peto.
252 reviews46 followers
February 28, 2017
No knights hunt the sophisticated dragons in this tale. Their greatest bane is the rules of their own society, which are apparently modelled on or at least inspired by those Jane Austen chronicled. That convinced me to buy the book. After second thoughts, that kept the book on the shelf for at least a year, since I really do not know Jane Austen’s oeuvre well.

I’m glad I finally succumbed. Weaved within the society travails of courtship and inheritance, of dragons and beds of gold, are Jo Walton’s own embellishments, the chief one of which is introduced in the first chapter, that dragon eats dragon, a source of power and size.

And fret not, although the characters are dragons, there are strong, entertaining personalities to enjoy, male and female, such as Haner, who develops a sensitivity for the long-suffering servants, and her sister Selendra, whose strong will and decency attracts a spoiled but kind heir of vast wealth and title. Their brother Avan’s lawsuit against an overbearing, egotistical brother-in-law threatens to destroy them all. The court scene gives the story its ending, after which, I actually felt a little sorry for the bad guy. At the same time, though the characters were dragons, I felt great joy at the end, like that . Wonderful! Jo Walton's work may not appeal to everyone, but she certainly fusses over the details and only releases creations into the world after amply loving them.
Profile Image for Sarah.
732 reviews73 followers
August 16, 2016
This was a light and fun book that really made me laugh. A lot. The author's chapter titles were particularly funny. Part of the fun in the book was the very clear cut characters. You could loathe Frelt and Daverak unequivocally, you rooted for Avan and Sebeth, and you desperately wanted Selendra to just blush already! It was really a fun book.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,923 reviews1,258 followers
February 24, 2016
One reason I love the Victorian novel? It’s remarkably self-aware. Victorian authors tend to have an appreciation of irony and can wield characters-as-social-commentary like nobody’s business. Victorian England was a time of immense social and technological change, novelists of that era tended to be of a position and background that gave them something to say and the means to say it. While I’m not here to condemn the novels of any other time period, I will say that over the intervening years, the evolution of novel from a serial and pulp form to a massive, mass-market industry means that the character of the novel has changed. We still get self-aware books, but we also get a lot of incredibly earnest narratives. And that isn’t bad—just different.

Indeed, I love Victorian literature, but even I am not crazy enough to recommend it to everyone. Some people don’t have the energy or inclination to battle with the stilted (from our perspective) language or the historical context. So in that respect, I’m actually really glad I found something like this book: it has so many of the elements I enjoy about Victorian literature, but it’s more readable—and did I mention the dragons?

Tooth and Claw is the Victorian novel you’ve always wanted: that is, a Victorian novel with dragons. “But wait, Ben,” you say, “surely I remember there was a dragon at the end of Bleak House.” No, silly reader of my reviews, that was a carriage. “Oh-hoh! But was there not a dragon in Jude the Obscure?” Sadly not, dear reader: that was a pile of used bricks behind the schoolhouse. Easy mistake to make.

Yes, it is hard to believe, but think about it: dragons are mysteriously absent from Victorian literature. It is almost as if there is a vast conspiracy at work. *dramatic music*

From the beginning to the end, this is a fantastically plotted, well-realized story. The dragon society has all these neat little touches. Walton uses sexual dimorphism to highlight the different expectations society places on men and women: men have claws, have to worry about being challenged to fights, have to think about position and rank and money and marrying off their daughters; women have hands, can write, have to worry about blushing (an irreversible physical sign of arousal) before engagement, and tend to eventually die from egg-laying. There are strictures around religion and flight, and even that same Victorian-style hang-up over the proliferation of new technology, like railways. Oh, and there are hats. So many hats and hairpieces: dragon fashion is kind of limited by their size and shape, of course, so hats are status symbols.

In this world, then, Walton introduces us to a few related families of varying social status. After the death of the Agnornin patriarch, his children have to make their way into the world. Lawsuits, proposals, and confessions ensue. Along the way, Walton’s nameless narrator shows a keen sense of humour appropriate for the Victorian tone of the piece:

It has been baldly stated in this narrative that Penn and Sher were friends at school and later at the Circle, and being gentle readers and not cruel and hungry readers who would visit a publisher’s offices with the intention of rending and eating an author who had displeased them, you have taken this matter on trust.

I love how Walton seamlessly combines the characteristics of her dragon society with the attitudes and tones of a Victorian author exhorting her readers not to be too cruel.

Reading this as a Victorian novel of comedic mishaps and misfortune, then, you get to enjoy the characters. Some are well-meaning but naive, like Avan; others are scheming, moustache-twirling, fire-breathing villains and scoundrels, like Daverak. The female dragons are well-realized and diverse, with each responding to romantic attractions in different ways and each pursuing different political/social agendas. Through this cast, Walton traces the ways in which people conform to and conflict with society’s expectations. And there are dinner parties!

Tooth and Claw is also a transcendent work of fantasy fiction. There is a lot of fantasy out there with dragons. Like, a lot. Some of it is really quite good. Nevertheless, as much as I love high fantasy (and really need to read some more of it soon), I feel like a lot of high fantasy with dragons tends to tread similar ground. Walton really breaks the mould here, demonstrating that it’s possible to play with and stretch the fantasy genre, and the idea of high fantasy creatures like dragons, to ever more malleable extents. She certainly isn’t the first or only author to do this, but this book is a short, sweet, standalone example. Indeed, I particularly appreciate that this is not part of a series.

The ending is exciting, and while a bit simplistic, still very exhilarating. All I can say is that if you enjoy the story as it develops and get into the mood of following these characters through their little drama, you will find a good payoff at the end. Tooth and Claw is just a pleasant, almost picturesque read. You know, if it weren’t for all the blood and guts and flesh the dragons keep eating.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,080 reviews108 followers
May 17, 2019
This is a fantasy novel about dragons, written as a Victorian novel. Jo Walton is one of the great authors I recently discovered, but this particular book is weaker than her other works.

Imagine the world where everyone is a dragon. Dragons are magic creatures and the only way for them to grow in fire-belching monstrosities is to eat other dragons. Now add hierarchies, church and rules of propriety highly reminiscent of the 19th century England and you get the gist of a story.

An old dragon is dying. His family gathered for a funeral dinner. He ask his priest younger son to absolve him of his sins and uncovers the secret that he ate his brother and sister to start own career in this world; otherwise his reputation is impeccable. He asks to ensure that his older son and his oldest married daughter and her family took only token bites of his flesh, so that his other two unmarried daughters consume him and got a change to grow to become someone. However, evil son-in-law, who is a noble, refuses this will and feasts in his father-in-law. The rest of the book is a struggle to right this wrong.

The book is fine, style is definitely well done but the idea per se called for a novella, not a full novel.
Profile Image for wishforagiraffe.
212 reviews50 followers
February 2, 2016
The blurb describes this book as an Austenian story with dragons as protagonists, and it's very accurate. As such, the language is a little tough to get through when you're not used to reading in that style, but it's well worth it.

It's a book that works well on a couple levels. First as a pure fantasy story, where the characters, culture, and world are interesting and well established (even though it's a pretty short book). Second as what feels like commentary on human society and social mores. Part of that is that cannibalism is not only an accepted practice, but forms almost the core of the story. It challenges our preconceived notions of right and wrong in a roundabout way, which I enjoyed.

I'd definitely recommend this book if you're looking for a short, pretty easy standalone read or you really love MRK's Glamorist Histories that this is a good fit.
Profile Image for Maja Ingrid.
449 reviews130 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
August 20, 2019
DNF at 20% because in the couple of days I didn't read it, I've forgotten EVERYTHING

...Not that it was much to remember to begin with. It just was so slow and boring tbh.
Profile Image for Debbie.
817 reviews13 followers
May 27, 2021
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton is a brilliant mash-up of a Victorian novel where the characters are all dragons. It begins with the death of a patriarch and his grieving family who immediately devour his body. A lawsuit ensues when the remaining family members feel that his body was not distributed according to his final wishes. I was reminded of Jane Austen because the book was filled with engagements, confessions, and misunderstandings with frequent asides from the author. Walton does a considerable amount of worldbuilding in this book. The dragons have religion, history, dietary needs, a love of gold and hoards of money. They also eat their dead, the weak and those they fight with. At least the males do. Female dragons are to be protected – they have hands instead of claws and are unable to fight. The women must remain chaste and avoid being alone with a male dragon lest they turn pink. If they turn pink without a formal engagement, their reputations are ruined and everyone can see their shame.
This book won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2004. Jo Walton has an unfinished sequel titled Those Who Favor Fire that I wish she would complete. I would love to read more about these Victorian dragons.
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