Monthly Archives: August 2011

Tooth and Claw

by Jo Walton

In as few words as possible, the best way to describe Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw (Orb Books, 2009) is to say that although it owes a great deal of its sensibility to the tropes of the Victorian novel, the main characters are all dragons.  This is not in any sense a mash-up (do not, for example, think Abraham Lincoln and vampires), rather it’s a melding of two cultures—humanity and dragonity.  (And as far as I can tell, the main difference between the two cultures is that dragons ritually eat their dead in order to share their wisdom, strength, and power.) As Walton herself put it, the 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.”  As a lover of both Anthony Trollope’s multitudinous works and fantasy novels, it was a natural choice for me to pick up.  Walton begins with the bare outlines of the plot of Trollope’s Framley Parsonage: a father dies and the family begins a fight over his bequests.  One son, a parson, hears his father’s last confession and learns a fact that he is not to divulge to the rest of the family; another son decides to contest the original will.  Meanwhile, the two unmarried daughters become pawns of the male-dominated society.  How will it all work out?  Will the good get their just rewards and the evil be punished accordingly? Walton’s captivating tale is not to be missed.

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