Tooth and Claw

( 16 )

Overview

Jo 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.

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Tooth and Claw

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Overview

Jo 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Jo Walton, author of the acclaimed Tir Tanagiri trilogy (The King's Peace, The King's Name, and The Prize in the Game), has written a stand-alone novel that -- similar to Mistress of Dragons by Margaret Weis -- revolves around a family of dragons and the intricate political machinations of the society they live in.

After a powerful old dragon dies, his five children and their families promptly devour him --according to tradition. But one dragon, a greedy brother-in-law, devours much more than his allotted share. One of the dead dragon's sons, Avan, wants to see justice done and demands retribution from the law. But with one of Avan's young sisters forced to live with his evil brother-in-law, the lawsuit puts her and several siblings who are hiding secrets in the path of danger.

Fans of Walton's Tir Tanagiri novels will find Tooth and Claw a dramatic departure. Reminiscent of Richard Adams's Watership Down and Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies,Walton's novel touches on themes of freedom, morality, kinship, and love among animal families. And although this novel doesn't contain the deep allegories of Watership Down, it has a lot to say about the dark side of human nature. With all the legal squabbling, family feuds, and romantic subplots, it's like a reptilian soap opera. Picture a fire-breathing Susan Lucci covered in scales and lying atop a mound of gold, and you won't be far off. Paul Goat Allen

From the Publisher
“Utterly sui generis…It’s a rare book that leaves me wishing it were twice as long, but Tooth and Claw is one such.”—The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

“A delight. On a basic level, Tooth and Claw works much the same way that Watership Down worked…Highly recommended for anyone who loved the books of Austen, or Heyer (or Laurie Colwin's more contemporary novels, for that matter), and wishes that someone was still writing social comedies that were just as sharp and just as pleasurable.”—Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen

“Jo Walton writes with an authenticity that never loses heart.”—Robin Hobb

Publishers Weekly
Dragons ritually eat dragons in order to gain strength and power in Walton's enthralling new fantasy (after 2002's The Prize in the Game), set amid a hierarchical society that includes a noble ruling class, an established church, servants and retainers. On the death of the dragon Bon Agornin, his parson son Penn, one of five siblings (two male and three female), declares, "We must now partake of his remains, that we might grow strong with his strength, remembering him always." But Bon's greedy son-in-law, Illustrious Daverak, consumes more than his fair share of the departed dragon, setting off a chain of unexpected and, at times, calamitous events for each sibling. Avan, the younger son, decides to litigate for compensation. One unmarried daughter, on moving in with the married sister and Daverak, discovers a house filled with injustice, while the other unmarried daughter goes off with Penn and falls in love. Full of political intrigue and romance, this provocative read sets the stage for further adventures in a world that, as the author admits in her prefatory note, "owes a lot to Anthony Trollope's Framley Parsonage." (Nov. 19) FYI: In 2002, Walton received a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Bon Agornin, patriarch of a clan of five dragons, is on his deathbed. He is a mighty dragon who rose from humble beginnings to the rank of Dignified, to hold lands of his own. Bon's dying wish is that his three younger children be allowed to eat the larger share of his body. For it is only through eating dragon flesh that dragons can grow large, and Bon leaves his three younger children in unenviable positions, with little gold to sustain them. The Illustrious Daverak, husband of Bon's daughter Berend, however, thinks differently, and he and his dragonets eat the lion's share of Bon. This angers Bon's children, and to gain satisfaction from Daverak, Avan, Bon's youngest son, files suit in the court of law. This sets in motion a series of events that has far-reaching implications for the entire Agornin family. Casting dragons as characters in a Victorian novel is an interesting experiment that does not quite come off. The characters in this book behave and talk like characters in a Regency romance. Obsessed with social standing and money, they are fond of drawing-room games and of attending church. They really do not act like dragons. But because they are, when one of the characters does something dragon-y, such as eating weaker dragons or fighting, it does not mesh with the genteel society that Walton creates. Nevertheless the scenes of the dragons acting like dragons are few, and a teen expecting this book to be about noble and wise or fierce and warlike fantasy creatures will be sadly disappointed. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended forYoung Adults). 2003, Tor, 256p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Merideth Jenson-Benjamin
Library Journal
The deathbed confession of Bon Agornin places his heirs in a quandary as the five siblings maneuver for position and power within the family. What makes Walton's tale of dynastic intrigue unique is that the individuals are all dragons, with their own customs and traditions-such as the practice of consuming the bodies of their dead and killing their weaker children. Walton (The King's Piece) combines delicacy and savagery in a finely told tale suitable for most fantasy collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
It would be wonderful to report that Walton offers a bold new step in the world of fantasy, takes the standard knights/swords/dragons huggermugger and turns the whole thing upside-down. Alas, that's not the case. The author had some success with her career-starting trilogy (The King's Peace, 2000, etc.) but has decided here to branch out into something new. The conceit: a world in which class reigns supreme, aristocracy and all its attendant silliness governing people's everyday lives, even though it looks like the old way of doing things is about to come under attack. The big exception is that all the characters in the book are dragons. Real, scale-covered, sleeping-on-a-bed-of-gold, fire-breathing (well, the older ones), bloody-carcass-eating dragons. Things start off with an undeniably eye-catching scenario: Bon Agornin, a dragon who wasn't of gentle birth but has amassed a respectable fortune, is on his deathbed. His children have gathered for the momentous occasion: when he finally dies, as is dragon tradition, all will come together and eat the body. After this shocker, which Walton plays as just a matter of course, no more stunning than dividing up a parent's bank account among the children, the story descends into a dull maze of subplots involving the children, their in-laws, and the vagaries of dragon prejudice. A more skilled writer could have taken this setup and made a Watership Down-style exercise out of it, pulling readers inexorably into the lives of creatures they normally wouldn't much care about. But while Richard Adams can make us forget we're reading about rabbits, Walton succeed as such with dragons. Silly when not plain dull: a mediocre soap with bloody trappings.
Locus
"Plot strands come together just as they should, with delightful triumphs, resolutions, revelations, and come-uppances."
Jane Yolen
"The Pride and Prejudice of the dragon world... I love this sly, witty, fast-paced, brilliant little book."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765319517
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/6/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 780,543
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jo Walton won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer on publication of her debut novel The King's Peace. Her novel Tooth and Claw won the World Fantasy Award. A native of Wales, she lives in Montreal.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 20, 2010

    Astonishingly Good

    Tooth and Claw is a pastiche of a very particular form of Victorian romance novel. It changes the usual status-conscious British humans into dragons, that do the usual dragon things (flying, eating livestock, fighting). It does this without violating the forms or logic of Victorian romances, but the dragon characters transform the narrative into sublime social satire. It's a fine read, approached as adventure, romance, or a simple trip into a fantastic alternate world. Highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2012

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2011

    Jolly good yarn

    Sweet, fun read about dragon world with a classic style. Just charming in every way.

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  • Posted December 29, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A superb satirical look at Victorian customs

    Although society has strict rules of conduct for each of the classes including the ruling nobles, the death of a family patriarch is always rough on the survivors When highly regarded Bon Agornin passed away, his son Blessed Parson Penn vows to play fair with his younger siblings and adhere to his father¿s distribution of the wealth. However, the death bed confession, an act considered a sin by the church, shakes Penn¿s soul when he learns what his father guiltily explains what he did to his family and why sibling love meant so much to him.<BR/><BR/>Still Penn hides what he now knows from everyone but he does inform his brother and three sisters they must partake equally in the feeding so that all of them can gain some of the strength of their late dad. Penn also insists spouses can join in their dining on what remains of their sire; as all should grow and remember Bon as a great dragon. However, although his sister Berend¿ spouse Lord Daverak is already wealthy, he avariciously eats much more than his allotment. This angers his in-laws, but only the youngest son Avan acts by suing him in court. Berend and Daverak take in Haner, who is shocked by the mistreatment she sees in the household while Penn takes in the other sister Selendra.<BR/><BR/>This superb satirical look at Victorian customs through a fantasy lens mindful of Swift¿s A Modest Proposal is a reprint of an early Jo Walton tale. The story line is driven by the five siblings who react differently to Daverak¿s greed. However, it is the dragon hierarchal society with nobles, church, servants and commoners in which even the good ritually dine on the weak that make for an intriguing Victorian fantasy.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2008

    A Long-Awaited Cultural look into the life of dragons

    What Jo Walton has done here has been attempted by a number of authors, but of all the similarly attempted books, hers is the one I still recommend to my friends and colleagues. In this book, one may delve deep into her idea of draconian culture, in an intriguing world of dragons who are civilized and cultured, remaining delightfully savage yet understandable. This book is definitely worth a good afternoon of reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2006

    Right Up There...

    ...with Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. The stories are so similar and yet so different that I cannot decide which one I prefer more, but this book is amazing and everyone should read it.

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