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Tooth and Claw

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  5,168 ratings  ·  970 reviews
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. ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 12th 2004 by Tor Fantasy (first published November 1st 2003)
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Jo Walton No, it's not. It's a sentimental Victorian novel about dragons who eat each other.…moreNo, it's not. It's a sentimental Victorian novel about dragons who eat each other.(less)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Janites, Elizabeth
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 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
Jo Walton
May 20, 2018 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
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 cle
Sherwood Smith
May 07, 2009 added it
Shelves: fantasy
"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
✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans)
💥 Free until May 22 for members of Tor’s eBook of the Month Club! Sign up and get the book here! (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
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
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:
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, 2020-shelf
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

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).
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
[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 ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
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, wi
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 the ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
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 becau
Jun 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of austen, victorian novels, or novak
Shelves: fantasy, mannerpunk
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 nov ...more
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.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
* 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.

Megan Baxter
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle

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 dr
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, dragons
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 ve
Jonathan Peto
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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’
Aug 15, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: McKenzie
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. ...more
Maja Ingrid
Aug 18, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
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.
Kara Babcock
Dec 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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, th ...more
Althea Ann
Nov 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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 w
Oleksandr Zholud
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 dyi
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this. It had me squeeeeing with glee! I now know what was lacking in every Victorian novel I've been made to read - dragons! ...more
Claudia ✨
After reading and falling in love with The Just City, I decided that I needed to read more books by Jo Walton, and since I adore dragons, the obvious choice was Tooth and Claw. Described as "a tale of love, money, and family conflict - among Dragons", it sounded just up my alley.

Unfortunately, it was one of the most boring books I've ever read.

Many people have called Tooth and Claw what would happen if Pride and Prejudice was set in a world inhabited by dragons. And even if I haven't read that c
Ivie dan Glokta
This book was weird....good weird, but weird nonetheless.

It took me by surprise even with a head's up. I struggled trough all that anthropomorphism honestly, the novel was too well detailed and the human mind just wanted to bend the dragons into a human form. It was like reading a Regency novel but only with dragons, and with much less romance but much more cannibalism.

Smaug: Well...thief, where are you!? There's something about you...something made of gold, but far more preciousss. There you are, thief in the shadows. Bilbo: I did not come to steal from you, I only came to gaze upon your magnificence and see if the old tales were true...I did not believe them. Smaug: well do you now!? Bilbo: truely...the tales and songs fall utterly short of your enormusly oh Smaug the stupendous. Smaug: you have nice manners for a thief and a liar!

It was good, but so very very slow to start, I got bored a few times and thought I wouldn't be able to either finish, or wait
This was a much more unsettling book than I was expecting, although I think the too-tidy ending let it down a bit. The way the author uses cannibalistic dragons to comment on the viciousness of Victorian society and narratives is brilliant. However, the impact of this is undercut by the conclusion of the story, which to me feels too traditional and too pat. I wanted something a little more unpredictable or ambiguous, I think.

Also all the comma splices made me twitchy.
Lady Entropy
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ebooks
4.5 Stars

The only single reason why I can't give this a full 5 star is because I can't abide slice of life\comedy of manners books.

That being said, this one was exquisite. The fact that the main protagonists are dragons helps.

Seriously. Especially after the typical "Old battle axe protective mother" enters the book, and I couldn't but help myself from hearing her speak in Maggie Smith's voice. Suddenly, I had Downton Abbey with Dragons and I couldn't stop reading.

As all other reviewers had said
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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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“We had already agreed that, Father,” Penn said. “And of course they will likewise take the greater shares when we eat you. Berend and I are established, while our brother and sisters are still in need.” 1 likes
“I don't think you realize how different it is for me than for you. You can make your way by your own wits and claws, while I must always be dependent on some male to protect me. Wits I may have, but claws I am without, and while hands are useful for writing and fine work they are no use in a battle.” 0 likes
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