Feb. 12th, 2010

starlady: (burn)
Walton, Jo. Tooth and Claw. New York: Tor Books, 2003.
Walton, Jo. Those Who Favor Fire (manuscript).

I daresay this is a Victorian novel for fantasy readers, particularly those who don't like Victorian novels.

After the death of their ailing father, the four Agornin siblings must make their way in an uncertain world. The two younger sisters, Haner and Selendra, must part: Haner goes to live with their sister Berend and her husband the Illustrious Daverak, while Selendra goes to live with their brother Penn, who is a parson, and his wife and children. Both sisters have only sixteen thousand crowns between them, which will make marriage difficult. Meanwhile, their brother Avan brings Daverak to court for his proper share of their father's body.

Yes, gentle reader, the book takes place in dragon society, in which cannibalism is not only tolerated but is an acceptable way in which to improve the race, and is a very real danger to those who aren't parsons or gently born women (who, in fact, face the very real possibility of dying in clutch).

So, it's a Victorian novel without any Victorians, which really reveals that what makes a Victorian novel Victorian is a) the manners and b) the social constraints--and, though women and commoners suffer most under these, Walton does make clear that men are bound by them too. As [livejournal.com profile] sartorias points out in this great post, there's a savagery beneath the manners in a Victorian novel (and hell, in Austen too) that comes from people struggling with the very real threats of poverty, disgrace and various strains of ruin; Walton turns the story inside out and makes the savagery literal.

I suppose I could be censured for it in certain circles, but the greater share of my sympathy nonetheless goes to the women in this story, particularly Avram's clerk Sebeth, who has an interesting and tragic past. Walton, who cites Trollope in her acknowledgments, found it necessary for her female dragons to have a distinct physiological reaction which makes it clear whether they have been intimate with males. Though obviously this is the equivalent of virginity in humans, I find it more interesting to regard it as a literalization of Trollope's ideas (read all of that post) about women losing their "first blush", not physiologically but emotionally, when they fall in love. Ick.

My one complaint about this novel is that the ending seems a trifle abrupt, particularly in light of the more or less random Yarg ambassador who shows up in the final pages. To alleviate this feeling, I recommend reading the three chapters of the sequel, Those Who Favor Fire, which Walton has said she probably won't finish. One of my favorite parts in T&C was seeing Haner become a free-thinking radical, which the sequel explores, and other developments in the characters' lives are fascinating. It's too bad we won't have any more. 
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starlady: A woman in a sepia photograph wearing a military uniform (fight like a girl)
These opening ceremonies are pretty damn cool, on multiple levels. More on that later.

[personal profile] bravecows has a brief quotation from the dancer Lee Su-Feh that gets right to the crux of what's wrong with cultural appropriation. One word summary: context. (But read the whole interview!)

The New York Times interviews Jenny Sanford, who will soon not be Jenny Sanford anymore. I thought her story, as told by her, was really interesting. Hard not to compare her with Elizabeth Edwards, at least for me.

Barbie's next career is a computer engineer. As someone who stopped playing with Barbies at age six due to her convictions that Barbie was bad for women, I support this career move wholeheartedly.

[personal profile] houbanaut has a post in [community profile] scans_daily about the French comic Adèle and the movie Luc Besson just made of it. Looks pretty cool.

[personal profile] kaigou has an interesting post on writing, and on filing off serial numbers in same.

[personal profile] yhlee wrote me a poem, "Crow Arithmetic", for [livejournal.com profile] help_haiti. ♥!

[livejournal.com profile] rachel_manija's poem "Nine Views of the Oracle" is nominated for a Rhysling Award, and is excellent.

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