Just your typical average family funeral- Dad, who spent his life working his way up from the middle class to the lowest rung of nobility, is dying and the family is gathered for the event. There is love and squabbling and a fortune (not nearly vast enough) to be settled. Everything exactly as you'd expect. Except that dad, and everyone else in the family, is a dragon. In their world, 'tooth and claw' is literal.
In Tooth and Claw, Jo Walton creates a family you can grow to truly care about in this tale about a family's struggle to survive and thrive in a society enough like ours to be uncomfortable, and enough different to be a bit frightening. The plotting is tight and well sewn, and the characterizations are vivid and interesting.
Walton isn't marketed as a young adult writer, but sometimes I think she should be. Her most interesting characters tend to be adolescents or young adults, and her story arcs tend to be arcs of self discovery and the fool's journey. On the other hand, there is nothing 'juvenile' about her writing. It is crisp and clean and moves the action forward while still letting the beauty of the words and the characters shine through.
One of the most fascinating facets (hee, hee – alliteration) of Tooth and Claw is the way that the dragon society portrayed gives us a look at some of the dark corners of our own society. In what I am sure is no accident, the dragon society is so recognizably human in so many ways that the ways in which it differs serve to accentuate the barbarism of our own world. What we do figuratively or furtively, dragon society does literally and openly.
All in all a wonderful read and easy to recommend for any bibliophile old enough to understand the words on the pages. While there are some violent images and scenes, they are handled with grace and enough of a screen that I wouldn't worry about them. I read through it very quickly, nearly gulping it down. If you're able to, don't do that. Take your time with it. It's truly enjoyable.
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