I had a vague recollection of not really liking this book as much as Jo Walton’s other work. Then I reread it in approximately five seconds flat (well, a little more than that, maybe). As people have noted, my original review called this Austen-esque, whereas Jo makes it clear in the book itself that no, the influence is much more from Trollope. Not that I’ve read anything by Trollope, and there are aspects here reminiscent of Austen.
Before I write any more about this, let me just pause to be very amused that often the same people complaining the dragons are too human-like (wearing hats) complain that the dragons aren’t (modern Western) human-like enough for their taste (socially acceptable cannibalism after someone dies).
The thing I really enjoyed about Tooth and Claw, this time round as much as last time, was the complex history and social background there is to this story, which you don’t have to know about, but which is there. The world isn’t just a paper thin homage to Trollope; there’s a lot more going on, a whole geography and history and philosophy which shapes the story and gives the dragons life. The homage to Trollope is there, sure, but Jo also looked at it and changed what needed to be changed to make the dragon society feel real — lacy hats or no.
This time, I finished the book feeling glad that it’s a self-contained story which concludes within one book, because fantasy trilogies are getting out of hand these days, but also wondering very much about the background of the world, about events before and after the only somewhat personally significant events of this story. That’s something I love to leave a book wondering, because it means that the world wasn’t just created for the story, but the story takes place within the world.