Tag Archives: Tooth and Claw

Déjà vu Review of Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton #Brainfluffdéjàvubookreview # DéjàvuToothandClawbookreview

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This review was posted on 4th November 2013, and I’m reposting it in honour of Jo Walton, whose writing and book covers I’m celebrating today. Here are my thoughts about the first book of hers that I encountered… She continues to be one of my favourite authors. Tooth and Claw won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2004.

BLURB: A tale of love, money, and family conflict – among Dragons.

A family deals with the death of their father.
A son goes to court for his inheritance.
Another son agonises over his father’s deathbed confession.
One daughter becomes involved in the abolition movement, while another sacrifices herself for her husband.
And everyone in the tale is a dragon, red in tooth and claw. Here is a world of politics and train stations, of churchmen and family retainers, of courtship and country houses… in which, on the death of an elder, family members gather to eat the body of the deceased. In which the great and the good avail themselves of the privilege of killing and eating the weaker children, which they do with ceremony and relish, growing stronger thereby. You have never read a novel like Tooth and Claw.

REVIEW: If you thoroughly enjoy Fantasy, particularly depictions of dragons along the lines of Anne McCaffrey and Robin Hobbs – but also like Victorian novels, especially those by Anthony Trollope, then Tooth and Claw is sheer delight. It could so easily been a tale of offbeat whimsy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Walton has given us a few extra twists. Dragons in her world are obsessed with social position in a strictly hierarchical society. But, in order to ‘get on’, you need to be able to defend your position. With force. So females need protection as they don’t possess claws or breathe fire, like large, powerful males. And it is all about size. Dragons are constantly comparing their size – and will devour sickly children, elderly servants that have outlived their usefulness, and the bodies of their parents. For nothing nourishes and increases a dragon’s size like dragon flesh. So servants – who have bound wings to stop them flying off and escaping – rarely grow beyond seven or eight feet long because they simply don’t have access to dragon flesh.

Another interesting kink in this tale, is that female dragons are carefully protected because if they get too close to a male, they turn a bridal pink. If the proprieties have all been observed, this is fine – but if a male manages to corner a young female against her will and she flushes pink, she is ruined if he doesn’t marry her. So we have an interesting parallel with the Victorian obsession of keeping unmarried girls pure – and how fragile their reputations are if they encounter an unscrupulous male.

There is also a fascinating sub-plot about religion, where a more socially acceptable version has superseded an older and a more troubling account of how dragonkind managed to prevail against a race that sounds uncannily like humans. Pockets of high-born dragons still worship the older sect, but have to do so in secret and risk social disgrace, even though theoretically, there is no religious discrimination… It’s all very well done.

By adopting the viewpoint of the omniscient narrator, and providing details of each character’s social class and standing, Walton manages to give us the same cosy feel-good atmosphere we get from Austen and Trollope’s books. Which reads very enjoyably when set against the inevitable explosions of visceral violence that underpins dragon society…

Of course, Walton is not just discussing dragon priorities – Trollope’s books are all about power and ambition. Who has it, who wants it and how far they are prepared to go to achieve it. And how the romantic heroine will cope in a world where her appearance and wit are all she has to offer, when respectable employment is out of the question. Walton could have so very easily made a real mess of this conceit – but in handling all her characters with such humour and adroitness, she presents us with another mirror to our own natures – one red in tooth and claw.
10/10

Covet the Covers – 14 #Brainfluffcovetthecovers #CovetthecoversJoWalton

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Welcome to another helping of Covet the Covers. This week I’m featuring Jo Walton’s covers, which are a mix of fantasy, alternate history (The Small Change series) and magic realism, standalones and series… I shall be sharing my thoughts about her book Lifelode tomorrow – but all her books are a major reading event as her writing talent is off the charts and she always produces something thought-provoking and original. She is one of the most gifted, inspired authors writing SFF today. See my reviews of Tooth and Claw, Among Others, Farthing, Ha’penny, Half a Crown, My Real Children, The Just City, The Philosopher Kings, Necessity, The King’s Peace, The King’s Name, and Lent.


Get to Know the Fantasy Reader Tag #Brainfluffbookblog #GettoKnowtheFantasyReaderTag #WyrdandWonder2020

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I saw this featured as part of the Wyrd and Wonder 2020 month and thought I’d also like to take part…


1. What is the first fantasy novel you read?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and I mourned for days afterwards, because there wasn’t any way of getting to Narnia at the back of my wardrobe…


2. If you could be the hero/heroine in a fantasy novel, who would be the author and what’s one trope you’d insist be in the story?

It would be by Jo Walton, who would write me as an intelligent, sympathetic woman of a certain age, who was able to magically make everyone able to read and write. I’d had a promising young apprentice who was supposed to be the Chosen One, but when the foolish girl eloped with a passing hedge wizard, the job of being Chosen devolved to me. After all, I wasn’t going to be eloping anywhere…


3. What is a fantasy you’ve read this year, that you want more people to read?

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce – a fabulous unreliable narrator who may or may not have encountered a controlling powerful fae character. Disturbing and memorable.
Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky – another wonderful standalone read by an author at the height of his powers.
And the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold – the eighth book was recently released. Each book is a gem, as Penric, who is ridden by an old and powerful demon, ends up having all sorts of adventures. This series deserves to be far better known than it is.


4. What is your favourite fantasy subgenre? What subgenre have you not read much from?

I’m a sucker for crime fantasy of all sorts, but you won’t find me reading any grimdark or horror. I’m too prone to nightmares.

 

5. Who are your auto-buy fantasy authors?

Jo Walton, Lois McMaster Bujold, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kevin Hearne, Melanie Rawn
Sebastien de Castell, Marilyn Messik, Ilona Andrews, Juliet E. McKenna.

 

6. How do you typically find fantasy recommendations? (Goodreads, Youtube, Podcasts, Instagram…)

Mostly from excellent book bloggers, and Netgalley.



7. What upcoming fantasy releases are you excited about?

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky
The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso
Afterland by Lauren Beukes
The Empire of Gold – Book 3 of the Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

 

8. What is one misconception about fantasy you would like to lay to rest?

That it is either a genre weighed down by great big tomes allll about various political factions magically slaughtering each other, or fluffy make-believe. It can be both those things – but it can also be every bit as searing and relevant as anything else you pick up on the contemporary bookshelves, too.

 

9. If someone had never read a fantasy before and asked you to recommend the first 3 books that come to mind as places to start, what would those recommendations be?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik – a twist on a classic fairy story
The Radleys by Matt Haig – the funniest and most poignant contemporary take on vampires
Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton – Dragons do Anthony Trollop…


10. Who is the fantasy reading content creator you’d like to shoutout?

Tammy from Books, Bones and Buff, Lynn from Lynn’s Books, Maddalena from Space and Sorcery, Mogsy from The Bibliosanctum and the Cap from The Captain’s Quarters.

They are all wonderful book bloggers who provide a steady output of excellent reviews and recommendations and whose opinions I trust and respect. They have all provided me with a lot of cracking reads over the years and are probably mostly responsible for my swollen TBR…



Friday Faceoff – You have nice manners for a thief, and a LIAR!

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is the one we prefer. This week the theme is dragons, so I’ve chosen Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton.

 

This cover, produced by Tor Fantasy in December 2004, is a rather splendid dragon. Definitely eye-catching and I like the fact that he is clearly expecting to be served. If I’m going to be picky, the backdrop looks like a generic fantasy landscape – and this book is set in an alternate Victorian England where dragons are vying with each other for power and influence after the style of Trollop. So the backdrop doesn’t line up very well with the content. Other than that, I think it’s a solidly good cover.

 

This offering was produced by Orb Books in January 2006. I have to say my first instinct is ‘how boring’. A WHITE cover… really? And that very generic dragon didn’t really take a lot of effort. There’s nothing innately wrong with it, but when I consider just what an awesomely sharp, funny and memorable book this is – the cover simply doesn’t measure up.

 

This cover from Corsair was published in February 2013 and is far more like it! The deep rich crimson and embossed gold lettering and wheeling dragon is both classy and eyecatching. This is the edition that I read, so that also may affect my reaction to it – but the reason I picked it up off the shelf was because the cover caught my eye…

 

Produced in September 2017, this French edition by Denoël also features gold lettering and decoration. The background is darker, but I suppose they are going for a classic Victorian feel. I also like the visual impact of this one, though I doubt it gives the reader much idea about the story or genre of this very quirky, entertaining book.

 

This edition, published in 2006 by Triton is my favourite. I love the wonderfully detailed illustration. The power and menace emanating from that dragon is palpable, while the lettering looks beautiful. And the fact this dragon is engrossed in a book gives a major clue about the story. What about you? Which one of these do you prefer?

 

AAAND… some of you may know that my debut novel, Running Out of Space was published this week. Today I am featuring in a guest blog at Second Run Reviews talking about growing up during the space race – and how I felt when it all came to a halt.