As the Pern saga continues, McCaffrey continues to fill in various gaps in the history. The MasterHarper of Pern begins forty or fifty years before the original Pern book (Dragonflight). Like The Renegades of Pern, it fills in a lot of the backstory to the events that take place leading up to Dragonflight.
Basically, as I read these books, I view McCaffrey’s initial six books as the main point of the series. The rest don’t really make sense unless you’ve read those six. Even the books that are set at the beginning of Pern’s history somehow need the context of the later books to get the full impact of McCaffrey’s writing.
MasterHarper is a really enjoyable addition, mainly because Robinton is such a great character. He’s an important character in those first six books (and a few others), and getting his backstory really gave his character a lot more depth. When we meet Robinton in Dragonflight, we know that he is unmarried and childless, so I figured that his romance in MasterHarper was probably going to end in tragedy. It felt like McCaffrey made it even more tragic than absolutely necessary. This was a book full of drama and pathos, sometimes a bit too much.
Luckily, Robinton himself is a strong, humorous character. He is intelligent, practical, and far-seeing. His rise to leadership and almost universal acceptance seems natural and realistic.
At the end of the day, while MasterHarper didn’t really throw me any surprises, it was a solid read with some intriguing insight into an already well-liked character. 4/5.