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Tooth and Claw Hardcover – November 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From 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." FYI: In 2002, Walton received a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Walton says this book is "the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology." It is also something truly different in the line of the novel. After a father dies, his children must deal with the circumstances of his death. One son, a parson, agonizes over his sire's deathbed confession. Another starts a court case to gain the inheritance. One daughter must choose between her family of origin and her husband. Another falls in love, but her course does not run smoothly thereafter. So what's different about all that? Well, everyone in the story is a dragon, and in their society, children eat their deceased parents, and the stronger eat the weaker, for only by eating the flesh of its kind can a dragon achieve full strength and power. So therein lies the difference, and the distinction of a little masterpiece of originality. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1 edition (November 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765302640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765302649
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #783,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Jo Walton has published twelve novels, three poetry collections, and an essay collection, with another novel due out in July 2015. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002, the World Fantasy Award in 2004 for Tooth and Claw, and the Hugo and Nebula awards in 2012 for Among Others. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are much better. She writes science fiction and fantasy, reads a lot, talks about books, and eats great food. She plans to live to be ninety-nine and write a book every year.

Her livejournal, with wordcount, poetry, recipes and occasional actual journalling, is at: She also blogs about old books at

Her real grown up website with info about her books, stories, plays and poetry is at


The King's Peace (Tor 2000)
The King's Name (Tor 2001)
The Prize in the Game (Tor 2002)
Tooth and Claw (Tor 2003, reprinted Orb 2009)
Farthing (Tor 2006)
Ha'Penny (Tor 2007)
Half a Crown (Tor 2008)
Lifelode (NESFA 2009)
Among Others (Tor 2011)
My Real Children (Tor 2014)
The Just City (Tor 2015)
The Philosopher Kings (Tor July 2015)

Poetry Collections

Muses and Lurkers (Rune Press 2001)
Sibyls and Spaceships (NESFA 2009)
The Helix and the Hard Road (Aqueduct 2013)

Essay Collections

What Makes This Book So Great (Tor 2014).

An Informal History of the Hugos (Forthcoming, Tor 2016)


Copper Cylinder Award (Among Others 2012)

Hugo: (Among Others 2012)

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, 2002

Kurd Lasswitz Award (for Among Others, 2014)

Locus Award Best Non Fiction (for What Makes This Book So Great, 2015)

Mythopoeic Award (for Lifelode, 2010)

Nebula Award (for Among Others, 2012)

Prometheus Award (for Ha'Penny) 2008

Robert Holdstock Award (Among Others, 2012)

Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award (for Farthing) 2007
Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award (for Half a Crown) 2009
Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award (for Among Others 2012)
Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award (for My Real Children, 2015)

Tiptree Award (for My Real Children 2015)

World Fantasy Award (for Tooth and Claw) 2004

Award Nominations

Indie Lit Awards: (Among Others 2012)
John W. Campbell Memorial (Farthing 2007)
Lambda (SF with gay/lesbian issues) (Ha'Penny 2008)
Locus (Farthing 2007, Among Others 2012)
Mythopoeic (Among Others 2012)
Nebula (Farthing 2007)
Prometheus (Libertarian) (Half a Crown 2009)
Quill (Farthing 2007)
Rhysling (SF poetry) (2007: "Candlemass Poem", in Lone Star Stories, Feb 2006)
Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice (Ha'Penny 2008)
Seiun (Best work translated into Japanese) (Farthing, Ha'Penny, Half a Crown 2011, Among Others 2015)
Sidewise (Alternate History) (Farthing 2007, Ha'Penny 2008, Half a Crown 2009)
Sunburst (Canadian Literature of the Fantastic) (Half a Crown 2009)
Tiptree Honor (Lifelode 2010)
World Fantasy Award (Among Others 2012, My Real Children 2015)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By David Roy on December 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Some fantasy novels are epic, with rich plot lines, multiple characters on a quest to save the world from some hidden magic or powerful being. These books can be a lot of fun and very interesting, though often the plot overshadows the characters. Other fantasy novels are light and fluffy comedies where nothing much happens but they make you laugh your tail off.
Finally, there are those fantasy novels that really defy description. Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton. As the dust jacket says, this is a novel that is based on the Victorian novels of Anthony Trollope. Walton takes the Victorian setting, and gives it huge twist: all of the characters are dragons. Yes, that's right. Fire-breathing (though not all of them do) lizards that can fly (though not all of them can). And, most importantly, proper fire-breathing dragons who have formed a society based on class structure, money (especially gold and treasure) and arranged marriage. Walton takes this concept and writes an intriguing story of family honour and love. It's a real treat to read.
The plot description doesn't sound very interesting. I think that's because this sort of plot usually does nothing for me. It does sound rather dull, doesn't it? I would not have read this book if I hadn't both received this as a review copy and been a big fan of Jo Walton. However, I'm glad I did, because I think it transcends the genre and becomes a nifty little (256 pages) novel in its own right. When I say "transcends the genre," I'm speaking as somebody who has not read any Victorian fiction, so Walton may be way off in her homage. However, Walton is good enough that I trust she hit it pretty good.
The conceit that dragons are living in a Victorian-style society is simply a wonderful concept that Walton does a lot with.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By 20-Word Reviews on April 25, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Scheming clergymen. Heartfelt do-gooders. Social-climbing petty nobility. And they're all scaly, semi-bipedal, twenty-plus-foot-long dragons.

I ordinarily despise fantasy tropes such as dragons, the Good/Wee/Seelie folk and the like. I'm not even sure what led me to pick up this book in the first place--maybe the fact that Ms. Walton won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, maybe the Jane Yolen blurb on the back. But good heavens, I'm certainly glad I did.

Walton's spot-on narrative style captures the things I love best about comedies of manners, whether penned by Jane Austen or Lois McMaster Bujold. Without once becoming mired in exposition, she deftly portrays a society at once wholly alien and wholly familiar. The customs may be different, the players reptilian, but the drives and conflicts and personalities ring wonderfully true. The plot is deliciously complex, every strand woven skilfully into a lip-smackingly satisfying denouement.

Thank you, Ms. Walton, for this incredibly enjoyable read! And thank you for not ending on a cliffhanger and signaling the beginning of an interminable series... though I would, very much, like to read some more about the dragons of Agornin and their friends and foes someday. Please?
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Link on March 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was a delight. I love Austen, Trollope, and Heyer, and I also love good fantasy novels. I've never read Walton before, but will now hunt up everything of hers that I can find -- On a basic level, Tooth and Claw works much the same way that Watership Down worked. It doesn't matter that the characters are dragons, not humans. They are perfectly believable. Walton's writing is sharp, funny, and addictive. The Austen-like mores & social politics make a perfect kind of sense for the dragons in Walton's book. Social rituals and courtesies are crucial in a society where larger dragons might otherwise eat smaller, weaker dragons. This is definitely one of the strangest books that I've read this year, but it's also one of my favorites. 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.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I hadn't planned on reading this book, I was actually looking for something by Elizabeth Moon, and due to the fact that my local bookstore employees have a terrible time properly alphabetizing the books they sell, I came across Tooth and Claw. I am delighted I did, another reviewer has mentioned the fact that on the surface the story seems rather dull, but Ms Walton has done a wonderful job blending the Victorian novel with fantastical elements, primarily dragons. Dragons who are as conceited, egotistical cruel, kind, loving, caring beings, who just happen to eat their dead and the weak.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard R. Horton on August 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Tooth and Claw is something quite different to Jo Walton's first three novels -- it is a fantasy set in a world in which dragons are real. Its plot is based on Anthony Trollope -- specifically Framley Parsonage. With the details of dragon physiology and culture cleverly molded to fit the Trollopian view of Victorian England.

One lack in Walton's first novels is wit, and any sense of lightness. To be sure the novels are all to an extent tragic in outlook. At the same time, though, Walton seems so immersed in her imagined world that she doesn't want to play with it at all -- the books are quite earnest in tone, often a bit too earnest, or even ponderous. But Tooth and Claw, happily, is abundantly witty.

The novel opens as the old dragon Bon Agornin is dying. His son Penn, a clergydragon, hears his confession -- which is controversial according to Penn's religion. (It harks of the Old Religion -- setting up a conflict analogous to Victorian Era attitudes of Anglicanism towards Catholicism (and possibly a bit towards Methodism and other dissenting sects).) Bon's confession includes a shameful secret about his rise from a poor dragon to wealth and relative social standing. Then Bon dies, and his body is divided according to tradition, with his heirs each eating a portion. It seems that dragon meat is magically useful to dragons, allowing them to grow and thrive. However, against Bon's apparent wishes, his son-in-law, the Illustrious Daverak (equivalent to perhaps an Earl?), takes a large portion for himself and for his dragonets. This enrages Penn and his younger sisters and brother, and sets in play the main motivating force of the plot -- a lawsuit that Penn's brother will bring against Daverak.
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