If Jo Walton ever had to make an elevator pitch for her novel, Tooth and Claw (Orb Books, 2009), she might have said that it owes a great deal of its sensibility to the tropes of the Victorian novel, except that the main characters are dragons. Which is not to say that her book is in any sense a mashup (do not, for example, think Abraham Lincoln and vampires). Rather, it’s a melding of two cultures — humanity and dragonity. (And, as near as I can tell, the main difference between the two cultures seems to be that dragons ritually eat their dead to share their wisdom, strength and power.) As Walton herself put it, the novel is “the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology.” As I love both fantasy and Anthony Trollope,Tooth and Claw was simply irresistible to me. Walton begins with the bare outlines of the plot of Trollope’s Framley Parsonage: A father dies and his survivors begin a fight over his bequests. One son, a parson, hears his father’s last confession and learns a fact that he chooses not to divulge to the rest of the family; another son decides to contest the original will. Meanwhile, the two unmarried daughters become pawns of the male-dominated society. How will it all work out? Will the good get their just rewards and the evil be punished accordingly? Walton’s captivating tale is not to be missed.
Tag Anthony Trollope