Tooth and Claw | Book Review

Tooth and Claw


Released: November 1, 2003
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Theme(s): Family, religion, love, justice, loyalty
Genre(s): Fantasy, historical fiction
Age Group: 10+
Source: I bought it
Buy it: Book Depository | Amazon

Summary: A tale of love, money and family conflict – and everyone in the tale is a dragon, red in tooth and claw.

A family of dragons gathers on the occasion of the death of their father, the elder Bon Agornin. As is custom, they must eat the body. But even as Bon’s last remains are polished off, his sons and daughters must all jostle for a position in the new hierarchy. While the youngest son seeks greedy remuneration through the courts of law, the eldest son – a dragon of the cloth – agonises over his father’s deathbed confession. While one daughter is caught between loyalty to her family by blood and her family by marriage, another daughter follows her heart – only to discover the great cost of true love…

Here is a Victorian story of political intrigue, family ties and political intrigue, set in a world of dragons – a world, quite literally, red in tooth and claw. Full of fiery wit, this is a novel unlike any other.

My Goodreads Rating: ★★★

  My Thoughts  

Tooth and Claw is an slow-burning, but ultimately entertaining and worthwhile read! If you like the romance and societal critique of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the cut-throat and imaginative realization of dragons, you’ll love this book. Jo Walton creates a unique and exciting world set with well-imagined characters who you can almost forget are dragons!

I do not know anything about Jo Walton or the background history of what went into the creation of this book, but it’s clear that in addition to being a family drama, filled with loss, romance, and revenge via due process (really), there are critiques of gender, inheritance, and religion that are worth looking further into. Not only is the world created in the image of the regency time period, Walton also endowed the world with a rich cultural history that is apparent in snippets throughout the book.

Things I Liked

  • The “comedy of manners” aspect being applied to dragons. I really enjoy stories that essentially critique the manners and customs of society the way that writers such as Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde did in their contemporary works of literature. Despite the fact that the characters are all dragons, there is a well-defined system of societal ranking and titles that Walton establishes throughout the book so that it’s hard not to keep up.
  • The humor. There are just some really easy-going laugh-out-loud moments throughout this book.
  • The alternating perspective. There is no one main character of the book. The narration follows each of the Agornin family members, but also side characters of varying important to the overall outcome to the story. I like how this added some depth to the situations of the story.
  • The variety of characters. I didn’t have a favorite character, and in this type of book that was entirely okay. Throughout the book, I felt the same about all the Agornins (except the eldest sister, her husband, and that retched parson of course)! But we are not supposed like them.

Things I Didn’t Like

There are only really two things I did not like about this book, the first relating to style and the second relating to plot. But I realize these things are just a matter of taste, as they completely suited the genre Walton was emulating.

  • The writing style used in this book is very reminiscent of literature written in the 18th and 19th centuries. There’s a lot more telling than showing. And the narration is partially restrained and a told from a distance, probably why I had difficulty truly connecting with any one character. But it works for the society about which the story is about.
  • The only complaint I have about the plot is the ending which was a little too convenient and tidy for me. Also it just wrapped up a little too quickly. I would’ve liked to see more of what happens to the characters after the resolution of the court scenes. Also, by the end the villains had a lot less bite to them.

Final Thoughts

I am happy I finally decided to give this book a read! I bought it from the Book Depository over the summer after seeing Jean Bookishthoughts talk about it on her BookTube channel. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Jane Austen or dragons, and is in the mood for something a little different. Although there are some gory aspects to this story, this book is not a heavy read. It never gets too dark and it end very much in a happy and just place for all the characters you grow to care about.

There’s something for everybody to enjoy in this short read. My only warning is that it is a little slow, particularly if you do not connect with the story or characters early on!

Thank you for reading!
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