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The Harper Hall Trilogy

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by Anne McCaffrey

Published – Dragonsong:  1976; Dragonsinger:  1977; Dragondrums:  1979

So my book-blogging friend Sophie gave me a list of authors/titles to read a while back, and McCaffrey’s Harper Hall Trilogy is where I chose to start!  But first things first:  Is the cover picture for Dragondrums the creepiest thing you’ve ever seen or what!?  It’s even worse in real life – the dude is giving you this super creeper ‘sup look.  ::shudders::

But anyway.  The first two books in this series focus on Menolly, a young woman with a gift for music.  Unfortunately, in her home town, being a harper (which, in this culture, involves teaching customs, history, new lessons, and school) is a task reserved only for men, and Menolly’s father, the leader of their town, punishes her for pursuing her dreams of writing and playing music.  Eventually, Menolly runs away from home.  In the wilderness, her whole life changes when she saves a nest of fire lizards.

The trilogy is set in a fantastic world.  McCaffrey does a wonderful job of creating a place that is very different from our own world, yet still relatable and easy to follow.  It was a little hard for me to get into the groove of these books, but once I did, I found them to be very good reading.  However, for  me, the strange part about these books is that there really wasn’t much of a story – there was no villain, no one to rescue, no quest.  It’s just the story of Menolly’s life, which happens to be in this totally different and intriguing world with fire lizards and stuff.  The second weird thing was that these  books weren’t really all that much about dragons.  Dragons were there, hanging out in the edges, but most of Menolly’s interaction is with the small fire lizards, not with dragons.

I really liked Menolly herself.  She’s not a whiner, which I loved.  She’s also not all obnoxious about being a girl.  In the second book, when Menolly is training to become a harper, I think McCaffrey dealt very realistically with Menolly’s fears and struggles, without over-dramatizing them.

The third book focuses more on Piemur, a younger friend of Menolly’s we met in the second book.  I really enjoyed Piemur’s adventures, especially when he finds himself living on his own in the wilderness.  But once again, I kept expecting there to be some overarching point to the book – some enemy to overcome, some quest to venture on, but the story just sort of tooled along.

Throughout the series, various people raise/bond with fire lizards.  These small, intelligent animals form a close rapport with their human friends, and are somewhat able to communicate, especially strong emotions and feelings.  However, this led to what has to be the most bizarre love scene I’ve about ever encountered (although I’ll freely admit that I don’t usually seek out books with strange love scenes so).  Menolly and her friend, Sebell, are traveling together on a small boat to look for Piemur.  Sebell’s fire lizard comes into whatever the equivalent of “heat” is for fire lizards, and since Menolly’s fire lizards are the only ones around, one of them mates with Sebell’s lizard.  But because the emotions of the fire lizards are so strong, Sebell and Menolly sleep together because they’re apparently overwhelmed by fire lizard lust?????  Of course, it’s all good because they’ve actually been in love with each other for a while, but it was just completely random, out of no where, and left me with a LOT of questions – like what if Menolly and Sebell aren’t around each other the next time one of their fire lizards wants to mate?  Will they just shag whoever happens to be handy??  It was completely out of left field and I was SO confused.

But overall, these books were interesting reads.   I think they could have done with a little more direction, and maybe a little more humor (I think that’s what I liked Dragondrums the best – Piemur entertains me), but the world building was excellent, the characters solid, and the conversations interesting.  A solid trilogy for those who enjoy fantasy, and some more McCaffrey titles have found their way to the TBR.  :-)

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12 thoughts on “The Harper Hall Trilogy

  1. :lol: It’s got to be the best excuse ever for those morning-after-the-night-before-blues though – I only slept with him ‘cos my fire lizard was in heat!

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  2. Ahhh so glad you got to these! :D I really enjoyed Piemur’s adventures too, and his book seems to be more about him finding his place in society more than anything else, which doesn’t sound too exciting… I actually like these character-growth-centric books (kind of like L.M. Montgomery books too, right?) but I agree that they may be difficult to get into. I do hope that Piemur shows up in other Pern books though!

    OH WAIT Sebell and Menolly slept together?! I thought there were only hints of them being together in the third book, but if this is in the second book, I might’ve missed it; I usually re-read the first book and the third book, haha.

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      • Sophie!! Hope everything is cool… life has been CRAZY and I responded to some of your comments but not all of them and now it’s all been so long ago that I’ve forgotten all my clever responses. But I definitely enjoyed the Harper Hall series, and someone else commented today and recommended another McCaffrey series (and, fun fact, my last name is McCafferty, so I’m already drawn to this McCaffrey woman; she’s SO CLOSE) so I’ll be checking those out, woo!

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  4. Have you read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series? Even if you just read the first book, a lot of your confusion about the weird sex thing is explained haha. (Well and a lot of other things that might not have been particularly clear). This trilogy is actually a spin off of that, and Dragonflight (the very first book of Dragonriders of Pern) is my favourite book I’ve read in the Dragonriders universe. You also might like it more because it’s a bit more plot centric vs. the character centric bits of this trilogy (although it’s still pretty character centric).

    Interestingly enough you’ll discover that McCaffrey considered this series sci-fi – she was absolutely adamant that it wasn’t fantasy. The dragons are treated from a sci-fi angle (biology and junk. It doesn’t get too detailed which is great because that’s where sci-fi can lose me haha! I might only know this because I went on a giant McCaffrey kick last year).

    In any case, you appeared to enjoy these so I REALLY recommend the Dragonriders of Pern series as I think you’ll at least like the first book even more than these ones!

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    • Hey, thanks so much for the informative comment!!! I especially was intrigued by the sci-fi/fantasy bit – that actually makes perfect sense, because the series didn’t really feel fantasy-y at all – no magic or anything, other than the whole “between” business. I’ll definitely look for the Dragon Riders series next, though, because I enjoyed Harper Hall and was wondering where to head next!!

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