Tooth and Claw

January 9th, 2005

Jo Walton is one of those many people that I’ve observed from a distance for some time. She posts to newsgroups I read and occasionally post at, and likewise blogs. She’s one of those fandom success stories, I suppose…folks you see around for a while and then *bam*, hey, they’re published. I wasn’t overwhelmed by Jo’s first book (Koz pretty much sums it up), but the premise of this one sounded right up my alley. What could be done to a world to make it so that the ridiculously over-complicated rigors of idealized Victorian society made sense? Change the species. Make these creatures gain significant strength from consuming the flesh of their foes and their lessers to explain the fiercely delimited class distinctions. Make the covetousness of wealth an actual necessity of their comfort and lifestyle. Invent a delicate mechanism whereby females can be “married” simply by allowing a male to be too physically close to them, thus calling for constant chaperoning of unwed maidens. Walton’s solution, in short, is to make this a world populated by dragons. I remember that I used to find books to read by going through the library’s card catalog and just picking out everything that matched certain keywords and was over 200 pages (anything less than that I would have finished too quickly for it to hold my interest, which seems like an odd, inverted side-effect of ADD, but there you go). I could easily see this coming up in one of those searches, and the joy it would have given me to find it that way. This is an excellent light-reading book, with enough depth in the world building that you don’t feel like you’re reading absolute trash. The two young maidens whose fate is one of the primary plot-drivers would be depressingly simpering and maudlin for most of the book (some development is seen towards the end, at least), if it weren’t for the perfect reasonableness of that behavior in their world. It also helps that most of the other females presented are either strong matrons or one impressively assertive “fallen” maiden, thus leaving one with some hope for their future. Chad and Koz both asserted that the end of the book felt rushed or a little too pat, but I felt rather that it was thoroughly forecast, and perhaps overly so, but I suspect that is a convention of the genre which Walton is paying an homage to/parodying. In any case, for something that is mostly light and fun, I wouldn’t look for a lengthy ending or lots of untied ends to hold one’s interest. I hope it’s a good omen to start a booklog with such a pleasant book. Highly recommended.

4 Responses to “Tooth and Claw”

  1. Rich says:

    Well I get the feeling that we have some of the same tastes(in books), so when I am done reading my recent I will definately give Tooth and Claw a look.

  2. Skwid says:

    Glad to hear it!

  3. Skwid says:

    Jo is translating people names into Dragon names on her LJ.

    This would be one of those rare times I wished for an account over there…

  4. Skwid says:

    Delightfully, sometimes Posting Anonymously is sufficient. My Dragon Name is Ithemin.

    Amusingly, Skwid apparently does not compute; she claims it would just wind up as a choking sort of sound.

    That’s right…I am the man whose chosen name chokes the throats of dragons! Mua-ha-ha!

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