Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw is about, well, why don't you go look at the cover?
Yeah. It's about dragons that are people, specifically people in a Trollope novel, or what a Trollope novel might be if its characters were literal dragons. And, not-so-incidentally, ate each other. It is, in other words, a book in which the omniscient narrator can say
It has been baldly stated in this narrative that Penn and Sher were friends at school and later at the Circle, and being gentle readers and not cruel and hungry readers who would visit a publisher's office with the intention of rending and eating an author who had displeased them, you have taken this matter on trust.
and this reader, at least, laughs at the "gentle reader" reference while remarking on the tricky balance between the tone and the content.
The book open with a dispute over how much of a father's body should be eaten by each family member. From there spin out a lawsuit, social and religious dilemmas, hats, and numerous confessions and proposals (until one of the last chapters is titled "The Narrator Is Forced to Confess to Having Lost Count of Both Proposals and Confessions"). I agree with Chad that the end might wrap up a little too neatly, mostly because I don't quite understand why one character didn't tell another an important piece of news, but I love the end all the same: the resolutions are both what's expected for the genre, modulo the teeth and claws (or at least what I imagine that to be; I've never read Trollope [*]), and an inversion, or subversion, or progression, thereof. That doubtless makes no sense at all to people who haven't read the book, for which I apologize.
[*] Sherwood Smith has, and wrote an interesting review for the SF Site.
This is pretty well entirely unlike Walton's previous novels (The King's Peace and The King's Name, and The Prize in the Game), except in its meticulously observed narrative voice and excellently rounded characters and world. (I even liked Felin, and I was fully prepared to dislike her when we first met.) This was good light fun with deeper substance behind it, and a gorgeous cover to boot. Being a gentle reader, I could hardly ask for anything more.
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