Tooth and Claw was described as dragons in Victorian romance and it’s exactly that. Alas, I have only read one Victorian book and wasn’t terribly impressed with it; it’s just not my genre. I found myself bored to tears halfway through.

However, the fantasy aspects of this book kept me wide awake and interested. The dragon society has plenty of ridiculous aspects which mirror our own societies, past and present. There are also nice small touches here and there.

I would say that this book is better than Novik’s simply because Temeraire is all fluff and this one has nice, chewy insides. I’m willing to bet that anyone who loves the Victorian setting and fantasy is going to love this book and get a lot more out of it than I did.

You can read the first chapter here:

I understand that the basic plot of the book is pretty standard for Victorian romances: noble born sisters with little dowry and therefore little hope of marrying well are looking for a way to survive in a society where it isn’t appropriate for noble women to support themselves. There are lots of twists and some of them are rather convenient ones but that seems to be in keeping with the genre. Since I don’t know much about the conventions of the genre, I don’t feel qualified to judge the plot.

The dragon society is interesting and well done. While I was somewhat annoyed by the sexist elements they had to be there to make the point. The way that the dragons were a lot more aggressive, bloodthirsty, and violent than humans is also very well done and makes the book more interesting to me. On the other hand, you could look at these aspects, such as the dragons eating their relatives after their death and the way that the weaker hatchlings are culled, as just alternative and more straightforward violence from the way human societies often work.

The religions in the book are also interesting but their differences point a little too much to the differences between Catholics and Protestants.

I had quite a hard time buying to the whole “dragon maidens are delicate” thing but I guess that’s just because I’m a human and can’t quite wrap my mind around an even half-grown dragon being delicate and in need of protection. 🙂 Now, the way that the maidens changed colour permanently to reflect their feelings and the proximity to a male dragon was a very interesting idea. In that light it did make sense that maidens weren’t left alone with males. One question that wasn’t answered was can a married male make a maiden change colour? Since there seems to be strict heterosexual monogamy in the society, that doesn’t seem possible. It also seems that the dragons aren’t capable of cheating their spouses since wives and widows aren’t watched nearly as closely as maidens.

There are a lot of delightful little details in the book such as the clothes worn by the dragons. I’m really surprised that no-one has yet drawn a dragon wearing a hat or at least I wasn’t able to find even one such picture on-line. The first time this image cropped up in the book I laughed out loud (alas, I was in the university cafeteria…). If I knew what the hats looked like, I might try drawing some hat wearing dragon maidens.

The other detail that I really liked was the way that the court of justice is decorated with hearts and flowers and so those have a completely different associations to the dragons: from p.213 “…another threatening carving of hearts surrounded by flowers and coils of fleece…” Too bad that they came up in the text only a couple of times.

I really liked this book and should read it again to get more out of it.