Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Tor,U.S. (1 Feb 2005)
The family is gathered. Bon Agornin is dying. His son Penn, a parson, is with him for his final moments. His daughters, including one who has already married a wealthy neighbouring land-owner, are there, as is his other son Avan, who is making something of himself at the Planning Office up in the capital city. With the death of the paterfamilias, things are bound to change. Will the estate be enough to support dowries for the two unmarried daughters?
And then Bon is dead, and the family eat him.
So, this novel may be a Victorian novel, but it's a Victorian novel whose protagonists are dragons, dragons, moreover, that have to eat dragon flesh in order to grow if not merely to live. And part of the estate that Bon has left is his own body, and it's a dispute over the portioning of his body that leads to a great lawsuit between Avan and his bullying brother-in-law.
It works. It sounds like it shouldn't, but whereas in a novel by, say, Trollope, we have a certain difficulty in recognising some of the character forces, some of the pressures they perceive, here the pressures arise out of the nature of dragonhood. And through all the social chit chat, the class snobbery, you are never allowed to forget that the characters are dragons, ranging in length from six to sixty foot or more. It could have fallen very flat, but Walton manages the balance perfectly.
The result is fascinating. Highly recommended. And that's not just friendship speaking.