Tooth and Claw is my second foray into Jo Walton’s books; my first being Among Others. Now watch how I go all silly over this one.
A dying father calls his family to his side. One son, a parson, hears his father’s final confession, a practice no longer held by the church he belongs to but something he feels he must do for his father to ease his soul before he passes. The remaining son and three daughters await news of his final breath. When the father’s death is finally announced, a brother-in-law interprets the will very broadly, a second son protests taking his brother-in-law and sister to court over what he believes is rightly his family’s due. The case, and the family politics, turns everyone against each other and the claws come out, as the family we are speaking of is a family of dragons.
Can I just tell you how much I loved this book? I loved this book. I’ve said it and can’t, and won’t, take it back. Really, you must read this. It might seem like a simple story of families and inheritance but it’s filled with so much more. Class prejudices, elements of slavery and an abolitionist movement, loss, love, treasure (we’re talking dragons here), and manners. There’s a slight Austen feel to the manners — hats, hearts, dowries, and titles — and it’s all lovely. Then you get to throw in scales, claws, tails, and wings and you have something so very wonderful in the end.
I keep thinking that I’m hung up on the fact that this story is about dragons. It’s more than just the dragons though and at times I forgot I was reading about a family of dragons until a claw came out to remind me. I love the feel of the story — somewhat Victorian — the family politics, brothers, sisters, in-laws, and the intertwining and unraveling of their lives after the death of a beloved father. The addition of the cannibalistic nature of dragons (gently-born dragons eat their parents) and the social aspects that play into all of that bring so much to a story that is simple on its face but has so much depth. I adored the morals of the society. It was fascinating and I wish there had been so much more of it. There are hints of treasure and old religions but nothing is explained in detail but I wanted it to be because I wanted every single bit of the story I could have and more. It was a very rich story for all that it was about dragons fighting over gold and dragon flesh.
This review was difficult to write as you might have gathered from the rambling gushiness of it. What I wanted to write over and over again was, “Just read this. It’s great,” but that seems inadequate. If you’re looking for something different, something that will keep you entranced, then read Tooth and Claw. Oh hell, I’ll say it. Read it. It’s great.
Tooth and Claw
By Jo Walton
A Tom Doherty Associates Book