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Tooth and Claw Mass Market Paperback – November 25, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy (December 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765349094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765349095
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,851,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
A Victorian romance, peopled by dragons--which means proactively engaging the genre's presumptions and clichés via worldbuilding, from the role of the genders within courtship to the consequences of socioeconomic status, or: "the result of wondering what a world would be like if [...] the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were the inescapable laws of biology." Tooth and Claw doesn't touch sexuality and its agenda is transparent; the antagonist is simplistic and the ending a predictable bundled of tied threads and easy resolution. But all flaws are forgivable, because the sum of the novel is clever, playful, and thoroughly engaging, the best the premise can offer and precisely what I'd expect from Walton. I enjoyed this far more than I expected on onset (the start is a little slow); a true delight, and highly recommended.
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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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Format: Kindle Edition
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton is a Victorian-style novel about class politics, religion, money and endless proposals, a Pride and Prejudice with dragons, as a blurb appropriately calls it. And it's brilliant. The ways of the dragons and their intricate customs, so close to ours and yet so different, the genius exaggeration, reminded me of the rabbit culture of Watership Down by Richard Adams. But it's a much more proper society in Tooth and Claw: they have their city businesses and country farms, new churches and secret old churches, they have trains and carriages, because servants and parsons have their wings bound and cannot fly, they have dragons working for the liberation of those in servitude and they have the self important men, who feel it's their right and duty to decide just what the silly women do. It's a horrible world. But then there are luncheons and parties, and a lot of gold and treasure, which the fifty-foot dragons lay down in their caves to sleep on, the dragons wear hats and bows and go to school, which is hilarious. As are the chapter titles, where the narrator keeps track of the number of proposals, deathbeds and confessions.

The characters, especially the women, are well written and realistic - Berend seems to have forgotten to be herself, while Selendra is rebelliously self assured and my favourite was Penn's wife Felin, who is a supportive wife and mother, but doesn't hesitate to go out of her way to do something she knows is right. It's clear her compromises serve better than either extreme, Berend or Selendra.

I like that the author hasn't tried to impose any views on us, only giving us glimpses into her world. It's a nice story, with a very happy ending you know you're going to get, even though Walton throws in a few twists and surprises.
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