Deeply satisfying. Those were literally the two words that came to me as I turned off my Kindle, sighing with happiness at the end of the book before snuggling down to sleep. Which is, of course, the feeling I always have at the end of any well-resolved marriage plot, even if things do end a little more tidily than credulity might countenance (granted, a hallmark of the genre.) Doubly so in this case, because that deep satisfaction is also what I feel at the end of any exquisitely realized examination of an alien culture. I’m used to encountering that in good science-fiction, so imagine my delight to discover it in this charming fantasy pastiche of dragons, with a cheeky allusion to magic thrown in, too. I can’t rave enough about how brilliant this concept is, of an alternate Earth where dragons are the dominant species living in a time and culture very akin to Victorian Britain. The legal system and unwritten mores, the religion and politics, the fashions in clothing and entertainments — Jo Walton covers everything you’d expect in a society novel of manners and then some. I suppose that, given how readily I accepted the idea of sentient Victorian dragons, some of the other plot twists shouldn’t strike me as too fantastic (and if we’re talking about real authenticity, then buried treasure and prodigal heirs were absolutely an accepted part of fiction of the period.) I just think Ms Walton could have applied her rigorous attention to detail to improving on some of those plot contrivances. Picky picky, I know, especially since I’m dying to read more of this setting. It doesn’t necessarily have to follow the continuing fortunes of the Agornin family, charming and charmed as they are, but I do want to see how dragon society continues to develop with religion and emancipation and their relationship with the Yarge. Please, please write a sequel, Ms Walton. This is a genre mash-up I didn’t even know I needed till Tooth And Claw made the literary landscape an even more interesting place.
Read Doug’s review, and the conversation that led to me picking up this book despite my lukewarm feelings till now re: Ms Walton here.