A Gift of Dragons // by Anne McCaffrey

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//collection published in 2002//

This small, illustrated book is a departure from the norm for the Pern series.  It includes three short stories that were previously published elsewhere, and one that appeared in this book for the story’s first time in print.  Three of the stories are set during the latest (chronologically) books (which were among the earliest published…), while “Ever the Twain” was set during the second pass (after the events of Red Star Rising).

Overall, while the collection was enjoyable, it did not add as much to the world building as the last collection of short stories, The Chronicles of Pern.

“The Smallest Dragonboy” (published originally in 1973) is the first, and follows the story of Keevan, whom we know as K’van in other books.  Smaller and younger than many of the other candidates for dragon impression, Keevan is determined that he will Impress a dragon and prove to the other candidates, especially bully Beterli, that size doesn’t matter.  While a pleasant  and engaging story, it wasn’t particularly thrilling.

The second story, “The Girl Who Heard Dragons” (originally published in 1994) was much longer than “The Smallest Dragonboy.”  However, it really just felt like a deleted chapter that should have been in The Renegades of Pern.  It was about Aramina, who, because of her ability to hear all dragons, is the target of attempted kidnapping by the holdless thief, Thella, throughout Renegades.  In this short story, we learn more about how Aramina and her family initially escaped from Thella.  However, if I hadn’t read Renegades, I would have had literally no idea what was happening with this story.  In my mind, a short story should stand on its own (somewhat), and this one doesn’t.  I really think that McCaffrey was going to originally include it in Renegades, but since that book is a million pages long, decided to cut it.  A good story, but I kind of wish I had read it closer to Renegades so I would have had the characters more organized in my head.

There was a similar “deleted chapter” feel from the third story, “Runner of Pern” (initially published 1998).  In The MasterHarper of Pernthere is a minor secondary story about a runner (runners literally run around the continent, on foot, delivering messages) named Tenna and her relationship with one of the sons of the Lord Holder of Fort Hold.  In “Runner of Pern,” we get Tenna’s back story, how she became a runner, and how she met Haligon.  It was actually probably my favorite of the four stories, because learning more about runners was really interesting, and I quite liked Tenna.  While I think this would have worked well as a chapter in MasterHarper, it stood as an independent story much better than “The Girl Who Heard Dragons.”

The final story, “Ever the Twain” (published in 2002)felt the most random.  It is about a pair of siblings, twins, who are chosen to come to the Weyr for a hatching.  It was a perfectly nice and engaging story, but didn’t really add anything, in my mind, to the overall story of Pern.  (Although it’s possible that Nian and/or Neru are characters in Dragonseye that I don’t remember.)

On the whole, a decent little collection of shorts that were quick and easy to read, but not as critical to understanding Pern as the collection found in Chronicles.  3/5.

 

The Map // by William Ritter

//published 2015//

//published 2015//

This novella takes place between the first and second Jackaby novels.  While it was an enjoyable read, novellas generally just leave me wishing the author had taken the time to develop a full-length book.

In The Map, Abigail wakes up half-hoping that her eccentric employer has forgotten her birthday.  However – no such luck.  With some magical time-and-space-traveling party crackers, Abigail and Jackaby find themselves scampering around both the seen and unseen worlds.  Jackaby’s ability to see all things as they are – including magical creatures – aids the pair throughout their adventures, but I love that Abigail’s ability to see the ordinary is so necessary to balance Jackaby’s viewing of the extraordinary.

The relationship between these two protagonists develops throughout the story, leaving the pair good friends at the end instead of merely coworkers, and I liked that.

The story was a little thin in my mind, leaving some gaps with a sort of Well what do you expect from a novella attitude, which I think is unfair to short stories, as they do have the potential, when crafted correctly, of delivering a full and well-rounded tale.  The Map was a pretty solid 3/5 read.  While enjoyable for someone pursuing the series, it doesn’t really have a great deal to offer as an objective book in its own right.