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Book Review: Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton
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I finished reading Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw this morning. I quite liked it, and you should all go read it now so you can talk about it with me.

I'll wait.

1. This is the first book I've read in a really long time that I wished had illustrations. In particular, the difference between male dragons' claws and female dragons' hands left me unsure what either was supposed to look like, especially when it was mentioned that females sometimes walked on their hands but didn't need to, while males almost always walked on their claws (where is the dragon's body weight? how long are the legs here?). I was also unsure what to visualize when "whirling eyes" were mentioned. Some floorplans or diagrams or something to get the relative sizes of the various individual dragons in the book down would also have been helpful, but since I think all the relevant lengths were given at some point, I could go back and do this myself. (My trouble visualizing sizes is due to numbers not sticking in my head very well; comparative terms like "towered over" or "less than half the size of" would have been easier for me to visualize, but this is in no way a fault of the book.)

2. I have absolutely no idea what the dragons' dances were supposed to look like, especially given that unmarried female dragons can't safely touch males, but can apparently dance with them. I would have envisioned something like complicated flight patterns, but they can dance indoors.

3. I am really glad I didn't know how the book ended, in even vague and general terms, before I started reading it. Therefore, I have ROT-13ed the following comment about the end, and recommend that if you have not yet read the book, you do not decode it: V gubhtug gur jnl nyy gur ybbfr raqf tbg gvrq bss fb irel arngyl jnf rkpryyrag. Rkgerzryl pbairavrag, va n jnl gung jnf abgvpnoyl yrff ernyvfgvp guna gur erfg bs gur abiry, ohg irel gvql naq fngvfslvat.

4. Ever so often I got to really wondering about the narrator, and about what the story was from his or her perspective: a novel? a record of actual events? something in between? If one of the latter two, could the narrator have been one of the principals?
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Ditto on pretty much all points, except #3, which I don't know how to decode, because I suck. :(

Copy it, paste it here, push the button, read.

Or, if you're me, paste into a pretend Usenet post in Free Agent. But you're not me, so the website's probably more convenient. :)

Heh... so I decode it, just so I can say "Yes, I agree with you on that point, too." ;)

Oh, it would be GREAT if the book had illustrations. Maybe we can get papersky's publisher to produce a special edition...

Comment on point #3: V sbhaq gur oyhfu ng gur raq n fhssvpvrag rzbgvbany eryvrs gung V ohefg vagb grnef, juvpu jnf engure fgnegyvat ng gur gvzr; V unqa'g orra njner gung V jnf gung rzbgvbanyyl ratntrq ol jurgure be abg fur jbhyq oyhfu sbe uvz.

I would note that the book is based -- sort of loosely, but definitely in style of narration -- on a particular Trollope novel. It's my understanding that she nicked the plot from there, for values of 'nicked the plot' equivalent to 'set it up with the same plot up until the point that it went haring off on its own, possibly down a hole looking for shiny objects'.

V sbhaq gur oyhfu ng gur raq n fhssvpvrag rzbgvbany eryvrs gung V ohefg vagb grnef, juvpu jnf engure fgnegyvat ng gur gvzr; V unqa'g orra njner gung V jnf gung rzbgvbanyyl ratntrq ol jurgure be abg fur jbhyq oyhfu sbe uvz.

V jbhyq unir purrerq vs V unqa'g orra ba gur genva. Nf vg jnf V guvax V fdhrnxrq naq obhaprq. :)

My thought: The narrator is the author. Who is a dragon who is writing fiction about dragons. In other words, to the narrator, the world is more-or-less like that (he's writing about stuff which he can see around him every day), but the events may be a bit more dramatic than are realistic.

Why I think this: Jo was delibrately writing in the style of Trollope's "Barchester" novels, in which Trollope every once in a while breaks in and writes a couple sentences as himself.

Jo's point in the book was to come up with a universe in which the "Barchester" novels made sense -- she loves Trollope, but couldn't stand how women acted in them, so decided to come up with a universe in which the way that women acted and were treated was simply a fact of biology, rather than coming from stupid cultural norms.

Aha. I may have to go look that up then; I'm not really all that familiar with the source genre. Is there a particular title I should be looking for for plot comparison purposes?

(Deleted comment)
Oh my, that's a wonderful painting.

I'll wait.

I'll read it someday soon! Really! And until then, I'll keep leaving this window open so that I can come back and un-ROT13 your number-three comment....

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