Dragonsblood // by Todd McCaffrey


//published 2005//

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…

Dragon’s Kin // by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey


//published 2003//

Dragon’s Kin is the first, but not the last, collaboration between Anne McCaffrey and her son, Todd McCaffrey.  I read a bit of an interview with Todd, wherein he basically said that he grew up surrounded by Anne’s Pern books, and was full of stories set in that world.  He went on to also write a few Pern books independently.  While no new Pern books have been published since Anne McCaffrey’s death in 2011 (Sky Dragons was published around the time of her death, having been written by Anne and Todd together), Todd McCaffrey’s website indicates that both he and his sister were left the rights to write about Pern in Anne’s will, and that his sister may be publishing a Pern book sometime soon (ish).  So while I am nearing the end of the Pern books, there is that delightful possibility of a new tale in the future!

Anyway!  I really enjoyed Dragon’s Kin, which took us to a different aspect of Pern – a mining camp as the second interval is drawing to a close.  With less than twenty years until thread falls again, the people of Pern are beginning to prepare.  In Natalon’s mining camp – which he hopes will eventually be approved as an official Hold – the men work hard to mine coal, which provides the needed fuel to forge metal tools used throughout Pern.

Our story focuses on Kindan, the youngest in a large family of sons (and one daughter, soon to be married and leaving the camp with her new husband).  Kindan’s father is the keeper of the camp’s watch-wher.  Related to dragons (and, of course, the ancestors of dragons, fire lizards), watch-whers are believed to be a genetic mistake.  Dragons where created from the genetic information of fire lizards by a skilled biologist named Kitti Ping.  In Dragonsdawn, we watched Kitti Ping create the dragons.  The prologue to Dragon’s Kin tells us –

In what was regarded as a mistake, Kitti Ping’s daughter, Wind Blossom, created smaller, overmuscled, ugly creatures with great photosensitive eyes.  Called watch-whers, they were useless fighting Thread in the daylight.  But the resourceful Pernese discovered that the watch-whers were ideal for seeing in dark places, like the caves that became the Holds for the Holders and mines for the miners.

The story of Dragon’s Kin focuses on watch-whers and their purpose.  It was a new and intriguing angle to Pern.  The authors crafted a story that lifts a formerly obscure aspect of Pern (I’ve always been a bit curious about the glossed-over watch-whers) and gives them an entirely new purpose and importance.

Kindan’s story is also interesting, as he struggles through tragic loss and tries to find his way.  We have a great villain who is just looking for personal gain rather than rebelling against change (THANK GOODNESS) and several other new and interesting characters.

All in all, Dragon’s Kin breathes some new life into the story of Pern, which was beginning to get a bit redundant.  A 4/5 read and an excellent addition to the series.

A Gift of Dragons // by Anne McCaffrey


//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 Skies of Pern // by Anne McCaffrey


//published 2001//

The Skies of Pern appears to be the last book, chronologically, that McCaffrey wrote about Pern.  Set after The Dolphins of Pern, McCaffrey looks at life on Pern as its people look toward a Thread-free future.  While it was good to get some closure for some of the characters that have gone through so many of the books together – eleven of the Pern books center around the same 40 or so years of Pernese history – I didn’t feel that Skies was McCaffrey’s best work.

First off, she starts by harping back on the same old thing: a disgruntled group of horrible people who hate progress.  I just don’t understand why McCaffrey feels like this is a plot-line she has to revisit in almost every book.  It is getting quite old – for someone who makes all the anti-change people absolutely evil, McCaffrey seems to be in a bit of a rut herself.  The especially frustrating part about this plot line in Skies was that it also felt completely unnecessary.  It was the plot that fit the last well into the overall story, and I genuinely think the entire book would have read better without it, especially since it was also the story line that was most poorly ended.

The rest of the stories actually aren’t bad.  F’lessan, the (adult) son of the Benden Weyrleaders, is the main character of the book, and we more or less follow his relationship with a green dragon rider, Tai.  F’lessan has been in and out of several of the other books, and I have always liked him.  He is a character who could have kicked back and rested on the laurels of his parents, who are incredibly important and powerful people in Pern, but he doesn’t.  Instead, F’lessan makes his own way, working through the ranks, studying, and aiming for a future.

Tai was also a really likable character.  Quiet and intelligent, she was also not intended to be a dragonrider, and just happened to be at the hatching where her dragon, Zaranth, chose her.  Tai is a good balance for F’lessan’s sociable, breezy personality.

The other big story (besides the random “we hate progress” vandals) is a huge meteor hitting Pern and causing a tsunami.  It’s this whole big thing and lots of drama, yadda yadda, and this is the other point where the book kind of fails to hang together.  See, I think what McCaffrey was trying to do was create a realistic role for many dragonriders to play after the end of the current Pass of Thread.  Having altered the Red Star’s course, Thread will never fall on Pern again after the end of the current Pass, which means that dragonriders can no longer expect to receive tithe from the Holders and Halls.  I’m not really sure why she felt like she had to come up with a special task for them, since we’ve already established that there is a ridiculously large amount of unsettled land on the southern continent, and all the dragonriders can just start their own Holds and go from there.  But apparently this isn’t enough.  Using the meteor as a starting point, McCaffrey has the dragonriders determine that they should basically start their own sky watch program, where they have people observing the skies 24-7, on constant alert for other dangerous chunks of rock falling from the sky.  Throughout the story, the dragons discover that they not only have the power to communicate telepathically, as well as the ability to teleport, but they can also move things telekinesistically.  So apparently, in the future, dragonriders are going to look through telescopes for potential danger, and if they see something, the dragons will head out and use their minds to redirect the path of the meteor!  ????????  What?!

This makes no sense to me, mainly because it’s not like they have this big problem with meteors falling all over the place.  They rarely fall, and they even more rarely fall in such large chunks as to actually cause trouble.  So this whole thing with justifying the continued existence of dragons really didn’t hang together for me.

Despite the flaws, this was still a very readable book.  And, like I said, it was good to get some closure on some of my favorites.  I’m actually quite sad that it appears that all the rest of the Pern books will take place during earlier points of Pernese history.  These characters have been together for the longest stretch, and I have gotten to know them the best.

Still have nine Pern books left!  They are neverending!

The MasterHarper of Pern // by Anne McCaffrey


//published 1999//

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 Pernit 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.

The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall // by Anne McCaffrey


//published 1993//

This book is actually a collection of five short stories, all set during the early days of Pernese history.  Each of them was well-crafted and engaging.  I found myself wishing that I had read this book directly following Dragonsdawn.  The beginning of the book includes a timeline of the first 28 years of settlement on Pern, and places the three stories that occur during this time in their appropriate location.  This was definitely a necessary aid to understanding how these stories fit into the overall history of Pern.

“The Survey: P.E.R.N. (c)” is the first story in the collection.  It takes place before Pern was settled, as it is a recording of the first survey of the planet.  An exploratory group is cruising about the universe checking out different planets to see if they are potentially useful for settlement, mining, or other industries.  This was probably the least interesting of the stories, as it was mostly a way for McCaffrey to *wink wink nudge nudge* the readers with a lot of foreshadowing about Thread.  It also gives her a chance to explain how Pern got its name: an acronym standing for “parallel Earth, resources negligible.”  However, as this story was also only 18 pages long, it was a fine read.

Next was “The Dolphins’ Bell,” which takes place during the Second Crossing, when the settlers are forced to abandon the Southern Continent in order to take refuge in the rockier, cave-riddled Northern Continent.  McCaffrey has touched briefly in several earlier books on the fact that when the original settlers landed on Pern, they brought with them a contingent of dolphins as well.  The dolphins, intelligent and able to communicate with humans, start their own settlement of sorts in the ocean on Pern.  They work with the humans, bringing them information and news about the weather, ocean conditions, and other pertinent information.  In this story, the dolphins and humans are working together to move as many supplies as possible out of the range of the volcanoes getting ready to erupt around the main settlement on Southern.  It wasn’t a story long on plot, but it did give more insight into the hasty removal of an entire colony of people, and, as I mentioned earlier, I think I would have really enjoyed reading this story alongside of Dragonsdawn.  

“The Ford of Red Hanrahan” is set almost ten years after the settlers relocated to Northern.  During this time, they have all been living in one giant cave system, Ford Hold.  However, the population has outgrown this location and is ready to begin dividing into smaller settlements.  Red Hanrahan leads one such group to a new place:  in short, this is the story of the founding of Ruatha Hold.  It was really good to see characters come back and to watch the colony growing and overcoming their many difficulties.

Set ten years after “The Ford,” “The Second Weyr” is a similar sort of tale – now that there are more and more Holds, the dragon colony, still working to protect all of Pern’s citizens from Thread, is also reading to begin establishing new Weyrs.  This chapter focuses mostly on the establishment of Benden Weyr.  Weirdly, this was the only story that really had anything to do with dragons, although they do crop up in “The Dolphins’ Bell” and “The Ford of Red Hanrahan.”

Finally, “Rescue Run” takes place around sixty years after the initial settlement, and ties up a lose end from Dragonsdawn.  In that book, when Thread began to fall, a small contingent of colonists wanted to send a distress beacon back to their home sector.  They were voted down because, among other reasons, it would take so long for a response.  But one sneaky citizen sent off that distress message anyway: “Rescue Run” is the result.  An exploratory spaceship intercepts the distress message and sends a party to Pern to try and determine what happened to the colony.  Even though this story was really good, I think that it was also my least favorite.  Instead of discovering the main colony, which is thriving, the rescuers discover a very small pocket of people who have stayed holed up on Southern and have gone, frankly, a bit mad.  One of the rescuers is the nephew of one of Pern’s initial settlers, Paul Benden.  And I guess the story just made me a bit sad because Benden’s nephew leaves Pern believing that his uncle (also a famous war hero) failed, and that the entire colony perished.  As they leave, they determine that they will recommend flagging Pern as a sector to be avoided due to the Thread, and it is also marked as uninhabited.

Overall, a very solid collection of short stories.  They would make basically zero sense to someone who hasn’t read Pern novels previously, and honestly you probably need to have read Dragonsdawn specifically to get the most from the tales.  But for someone like me, it’s a great little collection of Pernese history that really adds to the depth of the world.  4/5.

All the Weyrs of Pern // by Anne McCaffrey

//published 1991//

//published 1991//

Well, after The Renegades of Pern ended in a bit of a cliffhanger, I was quite ready to dive back into Pern with this latest installment.  And, much to my contentment, Weyrs picks up literally on the same day that Renegades ends.  Weyrs was basically non-stop excitement as everyone begins to work together towards the common goal of eradicating Thread forever.

At the end of Renegades, the people of Pern had discovered the original settlement of their ancestors (who came from a different plant – presumably ours, actually).  And, most importantly, a computer was discovered – operated by solar power, and thus still able to work.  The Aivas (Artificial Intelligence Voice-Address System) responded to its rediscovery by sharing the origins of Pern with Pern’s current residence.  Not only that, Aivas had a great deal of scientific information to share and teach.  Throughout the story, Aivas is basically a separate entity.  While technically a computer, it (he?) has a distinct personality and voice.  Aivas also withholds information until he believes the time is right for it to be shared, portraying an almost human capability for reasoning, planning, and acting.

Throughout the story, as Aivas trains the people in tasks they will need to perfect in order to destroy Thread at its source, there are those who embrace Aivas and all he has to teach, and there are those who believe that he is an abomination and terror.  Now, to me, it made perfect sense that not everyone would understand Aivas, and that even from among those who understand what he is some would disagree with blindly following his instructions.  However, McCaffrey presented anyone and everyone who disagreed with Aivas as being stodgy, close-minded, bull-headed, and, frankly, a bit stupid.  All – every single one – of our previous characters/heroes immediately jump onto Aivas’s bandwagon without hesitation or a second thought, despite the fact that Aivas refuses to explain his plan in full, but instead dolls out small doses of information as it is needed.

Am I missing something??  I feel like if I had never heard of or even imaged something like a giant computer (much less one that chats it up exactly like a person), I would be a bit freaked out by it and not necessarily inclined to immediately take it at its word when it says that if I just do these crazy things, my life will suddenly improve.  So I guess I found it just a bit irritating that McCaffrey didn’t give us any intelligent dissenters.

Here’s the thing (minirant only moderately connected to the story coming on) – I don’t believe that all change is always good.  And I get tired of fiction consistently portraying people opposed to change as being close-minded, stubborn, stupid, backward, etc.  Just because it’s change doesn’t mean that it’s awesome.  Being open-minded doesn’t mean that you have to embrace every change that comes down the pike.  It means that you are willing to assess every change that comes down the pike and make an intelligent and objective decision as to whether or not that change is positive or negative.  Thus, it is possible to be open-minded but still object to something new, not because it is new, but because the new genuinely isn’t better than the old.  Is this making any sense??

And I’m maybe a bit sensitive to it because I have received a great deal of flack over the years for embracing my parents’ conservative viewpoints as my own.  I have basically been told on multiple occasions that I’m a parrot who has never learned to think for myself (despite my 33 years, thank you).  People never seem to consider it possible that I have, in fact, explored other avenues of beliefs and values and, at the end of the day, determined that my parents’ value system is the one I believe to be the best – not because they forced me to, or because I’ve never considered any other way, but because that’s just what I believe for myself, personally.

All that to say, it seemed unfair to me that McCaffrey chose her least likable characters and made them the only ones who disagreed with Aivas.  The intelligent (and kind, generous, thoughtful) people of course realize that Aivas is 100% good and perfect and trustworthy, because they aren’t stupid and backward and determined to keep everyone tied to the old ways, ugh.

Anyway (rant over), other than that nagging irritation, the story really moved.  It covered several years and sometimes jumped forward in time without a lot of explanation, but otherwise was engaging.  McCaffrey is a little weak in writing convincing romantic relationships, so I had to use my imagination a bit, but still.  The ending was also brilliant.  I actually got a bit misty-eyed if I’m honest.  It was perfect.  Honestly, it wouldn’t be a bad place to have ended the series.  I haven’t started the next book yet, so I’m curious to see where McCaffrey goes from here.  I think most of the rest of the books go backwards in Pern history to fill in gaps there.

For now, Weyrs was another solid outing that I thoroughly enjoy and highly recommend.

The Renegades of Pern // by Anne McCaffrey



//published 1989//

After so thoroughly and completely enjoying DragonsdawnI was actually really excited to pick up the next book, Renegades of Pern.  Dragonsdawn had taken us back to the very founding of Pern – and actually introduced some legit sci-fi aspects into the books (finally) – SPACESHIPS!  SCIENCE!  GENETIC ENGINEERING!  DID I MENTION SPACESHIPS!?  It was a great time, and I could hardly put Dragonsdawn down for the entirety of it’s 300-odd pages.

Renegades jumps ahead about 2500 years, back to where the series itself began.  Renegades actually covers a pretty decent chunk of time – it more or less runs parallel to the first six books McCaffrey wrote.  In some ways, I think this was McCaffrey’s way of providing us with some background information and tying up loose ends.  There were definitely a LOT of stories going on.  Since there were three pretty long books since we last met with our original crew, it took me a little bit of time to catch up on things, especially since McCaffrey’s prologue introduces ELEVEN “meanwhile, in another part of Pern…” storylines!  ELEVEN!  In the first 17 pages!  So yes, it was a lot to try to take in and get straight.  However, once the story got rolling, it was a lot of fun.  Like I’ve said  before, I rather enjoy parallel books, so it was fun to see Renegades weaving in and out of the first six books.

The bulk of the tale takes place during the events of The White Dragonand the book ends just after the ending of that book – the leaders of Pern have discovered the remains of an ancient settlement.  As the reader, we know that this is the original landing site (creatively called “Landing”) of the Pernese settlers (from SPACESHIPS!).  At the very end of the book, they discover an actual computer – AIVAS:  Artificial Intelligence Voice Address System.  Of course, Aivas is more or less like magic to the current Pernese people, but as the solar panels for the computer are uncovered, it is able to boot up and tell the people all about their history – and, Aivas says, its primary assignment entered 2500 years ago?  To find a way of destroying Thread forever – and Aivas thinks it has done it.  (DUH DUH DUHNNNNNNN)


by Michael Whelan, who actually did a lot of the original covers. According to the website, he read McCaffrey’s books before drawing the cover. This was one of his concepts for this book’s cover.

While Renegades had its moments of weakness (especially the story involving Jayge and Aramina – why does Jayge suddenly feel like his only purpose in life is protecting Aramina, who is basically a stranger…???  If I’m honest, McCaffrey does not do love stories well at all), but was still just so much fun that I didn’t really care.  It also kind of ended on a cliffhanger, with everyone listening to Aivas tell their history for the first time, and I was pretty excited to find that, when I started All the Weyrs of Pern (my current read), it literally begins the same day that Renegades ends!

I also came across this brilliant little chart on the interwebs that shows roughly how the books line up!  It’s actually fabulous and if you are trying to read these books, I highly recommend checking it out.  Even though I’m not trying to read in chronological order (this time around), it’s nice to pick up a book and then see where it belongs, since McCaffrey does tend to jump around in time a bit without a whole of explanation other than “during the eighth interval” or some such nonsense, like it’s really going to help me when I don’t remember what interval or pass the last book was during!

One thing that I have to say is that I love how the ancestors of the current Pernese people were actually more advanced than the current generation.  In real life, people are so insistent that evolution is the only way, which means (conveniently) that we are way smarter than all the past generations of humans ever!  It’s refreshing and fun to read a story where actually the ancestors were the intelligent and advanced ones.  We think we’re so clever all the time because of computers and spaceships, but what if we found out that our origins were actually a species even more advanced and intelligent than we are?  Love it.

All in all, these more recent books have been great reads, and way more sci-fi-y than the earlier books.  I’m still really glad that I am reading the books in published order, though, as I really think that this makes the most sense.  I’m almost through the next book (All the Weyrs of Pern), which is also super exciting.  Amazingly, I am only about a half or two-thirds of the way through the series as a whole, so don’t worry – more Pern will continue to come your way!

The Harper Hall Trilogy


by Anne McCaffrey

Published – Dragonsong:  1976; Dragonsinger:  1977; Dragondrums:  1979

So my book-blogging friend Sophie gave me a list of authors/titles to read a while back, and McCaffrey’s Harper Hall Trilogy is where I chose to start!  But first things first:  Is the cover picture for Dragondrums the creepiest thing you’ve ever seen or what!?  It’s even worse in real life – the dude is giving you this super creeper ‘sup look.  ::shudders::

But anyway.  The first two books in this series focus on Menolly, a young woman with a gift for music.  Unfortunately, in her home town, being a harper (which, in this culture, involves teaching customs, history, new lessons, and school) is a task reserved only for men, and Menolly’s father, the leader of their town, punishes her for pursuing her dreams of writing and playing music.  Eventually, Menolly runs away from home.  In the wilderness, her whole life changes when she saves a nest of fire lizards.

The trilogy is set in a fantastic world.  McCaffrey does a wonderful job of creating a place that is very different from our own world, yet still relatable and easy to follow.  It was a little hard for me to get into the groove of these books, but once I did, I found them to be very good reading.  However, for  me, the strange part about these books is that there really wasn’t much of a story – there was no villain, no one to rescue, no quest.  It’s just the story of Menolly’s life, which happens to be in this totally different and intriguing world with fire lizards and stuff.  The second weird thing was that these  books weren’t really all that much about dragons.  Dragons were there, hanging out in the edges, but most of Menolly’s interaction is with the small fire lizards, not with dragons.

I really liked Menolly herself.  She’s not a whiner, which I loved.  She’s also not all obnoxious about being a girl.  In the second book, when Menolly is training to become a harper, I think McCaffrey dealt very realistically with Menolly’s fears and struggles, without over-dramatizing them.

The third book focuses more on Piemur, a younger friend of Menolly’s we met in the second book.  I really enjoyed Piemur’s adventures, especially when he finds himself living on his own in the wilderness.  But once again, I kept expecting there to be some overarching point to the book – some enemy to overcome, some quest to venture on, but the story just sort of tooled along.

Throughout the series, various people raise/bond with fire lizards.  These small, intelligent animals form a close rapport with their human friends, and are somewhat able to communicate, especially strong emotions and feelings.  However, this led to what has to be the most bizarre love scene I’ve about ever encountered (although I’ll freely admit that I don’t usually seek out books with strange love scenes so).  Menolly and her friend, Sebell, are traveling together on a small boat to look for Piemur.  Sebell’s fire lizard comes into whatever the equivalent of “heat” is for fire lizards, and since Menolly’s fire lizards are the only ones around, one of them mates with Sebell’s lizard.  But because the emotions of the fire lizards are so strong, Sebell and Menolly sleep together because they’re apparently overwhelmed by fire lizard lust?????  Of course, it’s all good because they’ve actually been in love with each other for a while, but it was just completely random, out of no where, and left me with a LOT of questions – like what if Menolly and Sebell aren’t around each other the next time one of their fire lizards wants to mate?  Will they just shag whoever happens to be handy??  It was completely out of left field and I was SO confused.

But overall, these books were interesting reads.   I think they could have done with a little more direction, and maybe a little more humor (I think that’s what I liked Dragondrums the best – Piemur entertains me), but the world building was excellent, the characters solid, and the conversations interesting.  A solid trilogy for those who enjoy fantasy, and some more McCaffrey titles have found their way to the TBR.  :-)