Dragonsinger // by Anne McCaffrey // A Pern Novel

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//published 1977//

So, as I mentioned in earlier reviews, I am attempting to read all of McCaffrey’s Pern novels in their published order.  It’s a little more complicated than it sounds, simply because the two trilogies that make up the first six books are actually mixed up??  So while Dragonsinger is the fourth book in published order, it’s the second book of the second trilogy…  go figure.

Dragonsinger continues the story of Menolly, who, at the end of Dragonsong, left Benden Weyr to live at the Harper Hall, to be trained as a Harper.  As with Dragonsong, I found Dragonsinger to be significantly more enjoyable the second time around – with a baseline of Pern culture under my belt, so much more of the story made sense.  The Harper Hall trilogy is not as in-depth as the Dragonriders trilogy; McCaffrey seems to assume that you’ve read her other books and kind of know about the world she’s created.

I really like Menolly, and enjoyed watching her learn about life in Harper Hall.  My two beefs with this book?  The first is that the book supposedly only covers the first week (????) of Menolly’s life in Harper Hall??  It really, really feels like way more time has passed.  In one of the last chapters, it says something like “Menolly couldn’t believe that only a sevenday had passed since she arrived at Harper Hall,” and I found myself thinking, “Me, either!”  I mean, seriously.  The story would have been way more plausible if it had covered, say, a month.  It just seemed a little absurd that Menolly went from knowing absolutely nothing about the Harper Hall culture to being completely accepted and getting promoted to a journeyman in only a week…????

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//way more interesting than the cover I had//

My second personal annoyance with the book is just that McCaffrey makes some of the people annoyed that a girl is trying to be a Harper, with lots of anti-female prejudice, etc.  The reason this annoys me is similar to the reasons it annoyed me in Tamora Pierce’s “Protector of the Small” series – first, women are doing all sorts of awesome things in both Pierce’s and McCaffrey’s worlds – so why is it having a girl do this one specific thing throws everyone into a tizzy??  It just doesn’t seem sensible that women are critically important in the Weyrs, that they work in other trades, that they can fly dragons and fight thread, that they can be Holders – but OH MY GOSH SHE WANTS TO WRITE MUSIC AND PLAY INSTRUMENTS OUR BRAINS CANNOT HANDLE THIS THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY THAT A MERE WOMAN CAN DO THIS THING!  ????????????  I just.  I run into this in fantasy a lot.  Either make it so that women are genuinely prejudiced against, so a woman doing a thing is legitimately a big deal, or create a world where women are equal and do lots of things, so a woman doing this thing is, while possibly new, an acceptable thing.  Having women do absolutely everything except for this one thing, and then having everyone flip out about them doing this one small thing, just doesn’t make sense.

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//my favorite out of the random covers I found online//

But anyway.  That is an old annoyance that I rehash frequently.  :-D  Overall, Dragonsinger was a great read, and one that I was honestly sorry to see end.  I’m quite enjoying this series and looking forward to the rest, including The White Dragon, which I just started yesterday!!

The Harper Hall Trilogy

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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.  :-)