So I genuinely intended to review Dragondrums by itself, but life happened and then I already read Moreta, and so here we are!
This was my second reading of Dragondrums, which is the third installment of McCaffrey’s Harper Hall series. As with the other two books in that trilogy, Dragondrums made way more sense the second time around. While the first two Harper Hall books focus on Menolly, this book is more about Piemur, another student at the Harper Hall. When Piemur’s voice changes at the beginning of the book, he can no longer continue in his position as the main soprano in the choir. However, the Masterharper already has plans to use Piemur’s other talents – like being able to wiggle out of any and all trouble – to the advantage of the Hall. Piemur is sent to the drum heights as a cover, and covertly used as – more or less – a spy on certain occasions.
Set in the context of the first five books of Pern, Dragondrums makes more sense. I was way more aware of why the Masterharper would even need a spy to begin with, and with a solid background of the political/socioeconomic complications of Pern at the time of this book, Piemur’s story and purpose became a lot more interesting.
Although published after The White Dragon, Dragondrums takes place chronologically between Dragonsinger and The White Dragon. On McCaffrey’s author page, I am listing her books both in published order, and in my personal recommendation-for-sensible-reading order!
In Moreta, McCaffrey jumps back in Pernese time, to the end of the Sixth Pass of the Red Star (per McCaffrey, the Red Star drops its life-eating ‘thread’ for about fifty years per pass, with a usual 200-year interval between passes. The exception was the long interval leading up to the events in her first book, Dragonflight. The interval before Dragonflight is, I believe, 400 years. Thus, all of the Pern books begin by explaining during which Pass or Interval the events take place.)
ANYWAY. Point is, Moreta is set at a much earlier point in Pernese history than the first six books. While I greatly enjoyed the story, I found it somewhat complicated simply because McCaffrey has so many characters in her books. When I had six books in a row with many of the same people, it became easier to remember who was who and who went with what dragon, but it was starting from the beginning with Moreta, which sometimes got confusing, especially when you had paragraphs like this:
“About midmorning, our time, M’gent thought something was amiss when Lord Shadder said no one from Telgar Weyr had collected any vaccine from him or Master Balfor – so we were slightly forewarned. Sutanith got her warning through to Oribeth, Wimmia, and Allaneth so I give Miridan full marks for courage. But then, K’dren says she’s mating with with T’grel, and he’s determined against M’tani now.”
I mean, seriously. That was from towards the very end of the book, and I only recognized three of the names…!!!!
Yes, there are helpful little glossaries and references in the back of the book, but I am one of those impatient readers who hates stopping to look things up.
The story itself, of a terrible plague sweeping through Pern, is engaging. Moreta is a likable and strong protagonist, but her Weyrmate, Sh’gall (and thus the Weyrleader), was thoroughly annoying to me. It was interesting to have a different twist on the whole you-mate-with-the-rider-of-the-dragon-your-dragon-mates-with, in that Moreta didn’t really care of Sh’gall all that much, but they were bound together as Weyrmates and Weyrleaders until Moreta’s dragon’s next mating flight. In the first six books, most of the couples bound together by their dragons are strong matches who complement and boost each other (I love the relationship between Lessa and F’lar), so it was weird, but interesting, to see how the mating ritual could also mean that you’re stuck with someone for whom you have minimal respect, at least for a time.
This was a book with a lot of tragedy. People and animals are dying because of this plague, and no one knows how to stop it. I loved this quote –
“When bad fortune occurs, the unresourceful, unimaginative man looks about him to attach the blame to someone else; the resolute accepts misfortune and endeavors to survive, mature, and improve because of it.”
Deep stuff, people.
A lot of the book took place completely separate from Moreta herself. We had a lot of perspective from other characters, and frequently would go a chapter or two without even hearing what Moreta is into. Between that and my complete dislike for Sh’gall, I felt somewhat emotionally distant from this particular story. I wasn’t super invested in what was happening. But still –
Okay, so BIG SPOILER HERE to end the review – because I must talk about the way this book ends – it distressed me to no end.
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER ARE YOU READY STOP READING BECAUSE I AM SERIOUS ABOUT THE SPOILER!
Moreta dies. No seriously. She dies. Abruptly. At the very end. Kind of pointlessly in my mind. I get really annoyed when main characters get killed off, so this definitely ticked me off. I just really felt like her noble sacrifice could have been made without actual death at the end. But apparently not.
Still, on the whole, the story was solid, even if I’m a little stupid about names and sometimes get confused. I know the next couple of books also take place at different points in Pern’s earlier history, but I hope that maybe, someday, we’ll get back to the original gang from the first six books, because I kind of missed them this time around.