Tooth and Claw
by Jo Walton
Tor, 2003, ISBN 0-765-30264-0
A book review by Elisabeth Carey
This is a Victorian novel about dragons--the point of the exercise being to have a world and a society where the conventions of Victorian fiction make sense, because the people involved really are like that. For instance, a young maiden dragon dare not get too close to a male whom she can't or won't marry, lest she lose her maidenly golden color and turn matronly pink. If that happens, either an engagement is immediately announced, or she's well and truly, and visibly, ruined.
This story involves the family of a respectable but not wealthy old dragon, who has just died. The most valuable inheritance he has to leave his offspring, more valuable by far than the family estate, is his own body. By consuming it, the younger dragons will grow in size, and therefore in stature in dragon society. The two sons and three daughters have made an agreement about the division of the corpse, that those already established will take only a token mouthful, leaving the bulk of it for those most in need of the boost from dragon meat. Unfortunately, the wealthy husband of the eldest daughter violates that agreement, leading to ruinous lawsuits, thwarted courtships, a sister nearly ruined by the opportunistic courtship of a minister who otherwise couldn't hope to marry so well, hidden treasure, lost heirs found, and much other romantic and entertaining melodrama.