This is Todd McCaffrey’s first solo Pern book, after co-writing Dragon’s Kin with his mother (and creator of Pern), Anne McCaffrey. While Dragonsblood was an alright read, it never really grabbed me. A lot of the story felt emotionally distant, and times when it seemed like I should be feeling completely engaged, I was actually just sort of ho-humming my way through the story. In the end, while Dragonsblood filled in some gaps of Pernese history, it wasn’t the dramatic page-turner that I’ve gotten from some of the other books in the series.
The story opens around 500 years after the initial settlement of Pern (aka “AL” – After Landing). The third Pass of Thread is due to begin at any time. The Weyrs have been preparing for Threadfall, and the majority of the population is also gearing up. There doesn’t seem to be any of the widespread disbelief like there was at the end of the first interval in Red Star Rising. On the whole, the people are ready (or as ready as they can be) to face the inevitable.
Dragonsblood jumps back and forth in time between the beginning of the third pass back to around 50-60 AL, where we follow Wind Blossom, the genetic creator of watch-whers (and the daughter of the woman who created dragons).
Basically, the concept is that in the later time period, a sickness hits the dragons and begins to kill them. In the past, Wind Blossom surmises that this could happen, especially when two sick fire lizards appear from the future. Wind Blossom’s story is developing a cure for a sickness that will occur centuries later, and to find a way to give the information to the people who will need it.
This just wasn’t my favorite book. I liked the dual timeline, but at the same time the connections between the two times felt really weak. For instance, Wind Blossom has her daughter basically guess when the fire lizards came from by determining (read: guessing) how long it will take the population of Pern to figure out how to start creating beads like the ones on the harnesses worn by the fire lizards. (Side note: how does the kid who finds the fire lizards know that they’re wearing a beaded harness if they don’t actually have beads in his time period…??) She legit is like, “Oh, wow, probably like 400 years,” and wow that’s exactly right, how convenient.
The whole book was kind of like that. It felt just a little off-kilter, a little lazy. There were several jumps similar to the bead one, where people need to know something in order for the plot to go forward, and then they just conveniently guess the right thing. How handy.
Meantime, in the later-time story, dragons are dying. In all the other books, this has been a huge deal. If a dragon dies, the Rider almost always commits suicide because the emotional devastation is so great. If a Rider dies, the dragon goes between never to return. Having a dragon die is described as literally having a part of the Rider die, and Riders who survive the death of their dragons are considered an anomaly. Many who live go insane because it’s so horrific. But in Dragonsblood, tons of dragons die, and McCaffrey just kind of acts like it’s sad but, you know… just sad, not crippling. This really, really lessens the emotional impact of the entire story.
Then there’s the Weyrwoman thing – the current Weyrwoman’s dragon dies, so there is a new Weyrwoman, and she’s basically the bitchiest person you’ve ever met. She was just so incredibly aggravating, and even though, in the end, we’re told why (sort of), it makes no sense – SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER – dragons can jump through time, but it’s really hard on both dragons and Riders to be in two times at the same time, so supposedly it makes them grumpy and stressed. We get to the end and find out that the Weyrwoman has taken several other dragons and gone back in time for the last three years, but then why has no one else been really cranky…??? ?????? END SPOILER
I won’t bother reiterating all the parts of this book that made me look askance at it, but suffice to say that there were several. I don’t necessarily think that Todd McCaffrey is a worse author than his mother, as several of Anne’s books were a little weak (in my mind) as well, and we’ll have to see where he goes from here, although I think there are also a few more books that he and Anne coauthored.
All in all, I’m still going with a 3/5, but it’s a weak 3. We will see what happens in the next tale…