Monday, December 29, 2008

Tooth and Claw-Jo Walton

Tooth and Claw
Jo Walton
Orb (Tor), Jan 62009, $15.95
ISBN: 0765319519

Although society has strict rules of conduct for each of the classes including the ruling nobles, the death of a family patriarch is always rough on the survivors When highly regarded Bon Agornin passed away, his son Blessed Parson Penn vows to play fair with his younger siblings and adhere to his father’s distribution of the wealth. However, the death bed confession, an act considered a sin by the church, shakes Penn’s soul when he learns what his father guiltily explains what he did to his family and why sibling love meant so much to him.

Still Penn hides what he now knows from everyone but he does inform his brother and three sisters they must partake equally in the feeding so that all of them can gain some of the strength of their late dad. Penn also insists spouses can join in their dining on what remains of their sire; as all should grow and remember Bon as a great dragon. However, although his sister Berend’ spouse Lord Daverak is already wealthy, he avariciously eats much more than his allotment. This angers his in-laws, but only the youngest son Avan acts by suing him in court. Berend and Daverak take in Haner, who is shocked by the mistreatment she sees in the household while Penn takes in the other sister Selendra.

This superb satirical look at Victorian customs through a fantasy lens mindful of Swift’s A Modest Proposal is a reprint of an early Jo Walton tale. The story line is driven by the five siblings who react differently to Daverak’s greed. However, it is the dragon hierarchal society with nobles, church, servants and commoners in which even the good ritually dine on the weak that make for an intriguing Victorian fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

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