So my most recent reads in Pern have been a bit up and down. I really enjoyed Dragon’s Kin, and was very disappointed in Dragonsblood. I have read two more books in the series since then – Dragon’s Fire and Dragon Harper – and I think part of the problem is Todd McCaffrey’s timeline. I understand why Anne McCaffrey’s books jump around in Pernese time a bit. She wrote a trilogy, it was well-taken, and then she kept adding to the series at both ends, progressing the story/characters she had originally started with, while also filling in background and history from earlier periods of Pernese history.
However, I don’t think that Todd McCaffrey has that excuse. He chose a point in Pernese history to write about – just before and during the Third Pass – yet instead of writing in a linear fashion, these four books he has authored/co-authored jump around all over the place, covering and recovering the same years, making the whole story choppy and confusing, as we keep reading about the same characters at different points in their lives. It’s hard to remember whether or not certain things have already happened to a character, especially when we add in that Todd is obsessed with the dragons’ ability to jump through time. Time travel was a rarely-used gimmick in Anne’s books, but a very standard one in Todd’s.
The other thing that happens with Todd’s constant going over of the same time periods is that the whole thing feels extra lazy, like he couldn’t think of a new plot, so he just literally reuses an old one. So far:
- Dragon’s Kin
- Dragon’s Fire
- Dragon Harper
- Dragonheart (I just started this one today)
- Dragon’s Kin and Dragon’s Fire – same exact time
- Dragon Harper (a lot of which was covered as backstory in Dragonsblood and is then recycled into its “own” story)
- Dragonheart (looks like it will be the exact same time as Dragonsblood)
So, fair warning, my reviews for the next couple of Pern books may get a bit whiny…
Here’s the thing: Dragon’s Fire is an alright book. However, it is just the exact same story as Dragon’s Kin except with a different perspective. These two books should have been one book. As alternating chapters to Dragon’s Kin, Dragon’s Fire would have been interesting and engaging. As the same exact story with another book in between them, Dragon’s Fire was boring and pointless.
Added to that, large parts of this book made no sense. Supposedly, there was all this stuff going on with the “holdless” (people who have basically been shunned due to committing a crime), but it all jumps around, and there isn’t a lot of motive given. We start with Harper Zist and his wife setting out to find some holdless people and basically hang out with them, but it’s all really random and confusing, because we don’t really know why?? Or what is going on?? Or why??
There is this whole thing with Pellar – who, by the way, is a really good character whom I quite liked – except he’s like this secret spy who is kind of an apprentice?? Maybe?? I don’t know, it was just weird.
The whole story with the actual holdless is confusing, too. Like why is Cristov hanging out with Jamal? We’re introduced as though the two boys are old friends, but then later find out that Jamal was holdless the whole time and he and his sister were actually just hanging out scamming people out of money?? Or something??
I could go on. The whole book was full of weak plotting, unexplained motives, and underdeveloped characters.
I was especially appalled by the fact that Pellar, who is only 13, has sex. Throughout the series, it’s always been this weird thing that characters bonded to dragons and relations of the dragons (watch-whers and fire lizards) are overcome with the same lust as the animals when one of the animals rises to mate. However, while weird, it somewhat made sense within the context of Weyr – the senior Queen rises to mate, and the strongest Bronze will capture her: the rider of the strongest Bronze thus becomes the Weyrleader.
But in this book – and, I’ll venture to add, the next few books – Todd takes this whole thing to a different level. We’ve never been given the impression that the people of Pern marry at extremely young ages, yet suddenly we have children barely past puberty having sex…????
In this particular instance, Pellar has been staying with a small, isolated camp that supposedly is home to the last Queen watch-wher (which is a whole different sent of contradictions, as in Dragon’s Kin a character travels about Pern helping people learn how to care for and understand their watch-whers, but suddenly in Dragon’s Fire they are super rare and on the point of extinction…???), and the Queen is ready for a mating flight.
Pellar nodded and ran back to the cave … he was surprised to see some of the younger women eyeing him consideringly.
“It’d only be for the flight,” the woman said when she caught his gaze. “Nothing more than that.”
Pellar nodded, not sure of his own feelings …
“How many turns are you, anyway?” Polla asked, regarding Pellar carefully.
Pellar hastily pulled out his slate [Pellar is mute] and wrote 13.
Polla read it and laughed, nodding toward the younger woman. “Arella’s nearer your age, she’s only three Turns older.”
Pellar found it hard to believe that the other woman had only sixteen Turns; he would have guessed nearer to thirty. Life with the watch-whers was clearly very demanding.
“Come sit by me, then,” Arella called, patting a spot near her.
Pellar crossed around the fire and had just sat, nervously, when the watch-whers mated.
Much later, Arella whispered in his ear, “Now you are one of us.”
Where do I even start with this? The fact that Todd is apparently incapable of writing a paragraph that is longer than a sentence in length (I edited out two sentences)? The fact that a 13-year-old basically gets raped by a woman older than him, one he thought was old enough to be his mother (even though she is apparently only three years older…)?!?!? This whole thing was just way too bizarre for words.
I will stop complaining now. Suffice to say that there were a lot of gaps in this book. I haven’t even begun to cover the whole mining/firestone aspect of the story, which was just as complicated and nonsensical. So much of this book felt like padding, an attempt to fill the story out to the length of a full book. It was so frustrating because a lot of the boring, pointless bits could have been cut out and the entire story could have been added to Dragon’s Kin for one interesting book (minus the child-rape, of course). Instead, we’re stuck with a pointlessly annoying book full of contradictions, back-tracking, coincidences, and actions without motive.
1/5 and an incredibly weak addition to the series.