Dragonsdawn // by Anne McCaffrey

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//published 1988// This is the full picture for the cover of the paperback edition I read//

The adventures of Pern continue!

So, McCaffrey’s books started sort of in the middle of the timeline of Pern. Her prefaces always indicated that the original settlers of Pern came, via spaceship, and settled the planet.  Over the centuries, their roots were lost.  Dragonsdawn deals with the story of those original settlers, and it was possibly my favorite Pern book to-date.  Also, about two fifty pages into this book, I suddenly realized something.  These books are sci-fi!  What!?  I don’t usually read a lot of sci-fi, so I think that may be why I didn’t really realize that that was what was happening, haha.  Whoops.  The dragons threw me off, too.  Who puts dragons in their sci-fi?  Well, McCaffrey does, especially when those dragons are actually genetically engineered from tiny fire lizards.  SCIENCE.  (Well, sort of.)

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Love this artwork by Michael Whelan – Sean, Sorka, and fire lizards.

As with all of the Pern books, it was a little difficult to get into the groove of Dragonsdawn.  There were a lot of different characters and no reference sheet.  The main thing that McCaffrey does that makes sense but also makes things complicated for someone with a poor short-term memory, is sort of “sets the stage” by introducing EVERYONE in the first chapter, just a few paragraphs about each person/group of people, what they’re doing, why they’re here, etc.  So Dragonsdawn begins with everyone on the spaceship just because they get to Pern, and her first chapter sort of meanders around the spaceship, checking in with everyone who is going to be a major player in the story, briefly touching on what they’re doing right now, and how they ended up on this spaceship to begin with.  It’s great, but it’s also confusing, because now I have to remember these fifteen different people when they show up a few chapters later.  (Was that the guy who was good with computers, or was that the fighter-pilot guy?  Wait, did that girl meeting the kid in the conservatory, or was that the one who was the famous genetic engineer?)  It doesn’t help that McCaffrey frequently skips several years at a time, so just because this person was a kid the last time I saw them, doesn’t mean that they’re going to still be a kid in the next chapter!

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From an Asian cover of ‘Dragonsdawn’

Still, there are plenty of online references to help me if I really get lost, and it usually only takes me about the first quarter of the book to get most of the people sorted out in my head.

We find that the people heading for Pern have every intention of settling there and eventually  making do without the technological conveniences they have always had in their previous life.  Pern is 15 years of traveling away from the other main planets settled by humans, and the new settlers are interested in starting again with a simpler, freer life – one free from the wars and power-hungry governments of the planets they have left behind.  It is possible that part of the reason I so enjoyed this book is that I completely emphasized with these settlers – I’ve always been a bit sad that I was born in a time period too late to simply load up the wagons and head west for new land (even though being born then means I probably would be dead now at the ancient age of 33!).

Anyway, at first, everything seems to go according to plan as the settlers land on Pern and begin to spread out.  But eight years later, the deadly Thread begins to fall – a phenomenon that no one anticipated and no one knows how to handle.  It was thoroughly engaging to read about a problem that I already know how future generations handle.  I’m actually someone who enjoys knowing the ending of a story (although no, I don’t skip to the end on new books!) and then seeing how we get there, so I really liked reading about the origins of the flame-breathing dragons and their riders.

There is a lot of additional drama from a crafty individual attempting to utilize Pern for her own advantages, and one of my favorite characters dies quite tragically (I may or may not have gotten choked up over that), but everything came together for a gripping tale that I really, really enjoyed.  Most of the Pern books take me a bit of time to work through as they are rather hefty and sometimes a bit dry, but I could hardly put Dragonsdawn down, and actually stayed up until midnight one night finishing it off!

While I highly recommend reading these books in published order the first time around, I do think that sometime I will read them in chronological-ish order at some point in the future.  I’m currently reading Renegades of Pern, and it covers random points in time from before the first (published) book, Dragonflightand apparently ends after the sixth book, The White Dragon.  It would be fun to read those first six books, and then Renegades, and really get a better feel for how everything meshes together.

ANYWAY.  Point is, Dragonsdawn was a very enjoyable read, one that I liked so much that it really gave me a mid-series boost and reengaged me into the world of Pern.

Nerilka’s Story // by Anne McCaffery

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//published 1986//

This was a shorter, easier read than many of the earlier Pern works.  For one, it is a parallel story to Moreta – it is the tale of a minor (but important) character from that book.  For seconds, it isn’t about a dragonrider at all, but about the daughter of a Lord Holder.  This means that Nerilka’s tale is delightfully free of the complications of remembering so many names!

As I’ve mentioned before, I really like it when McCaffrey treats us to multiple books about the same people, as it is much easier to get into a groove of who’s who.  Nerilka’s Story takes that a step further – basically, I don’t think you would even understand the story if you hadn’t already read Moreta.  Nerilka is also the first McCaffrey book I’ve read that is written in the first person, which was an interesting change from McCaffrey’s straight third-person narratives to date.

Nerilka’s father is the Lord Holder of Fort Hold.  When the epidemic sweeps through Pern, Lord Tolocamp stays true to his selfish, prideful character, and refuses to offer help or much-needed medical supplies.  Nerilka, shamed by her father’s actions, runs away to help where she can.

It was really fun to hear the same tale from a different perspective, and Nerilka made an engaging and interesting narrator.  Her story is not always a happy one (deadly pandemics don’t usually make for cheery storytelling), but it is one of courage and self-sacrifice.  Nerilka is willing to give up her status and privileges in order to do what she believes is right.  In classic fairy tale style, she receives her just rewards for her actions.

Nerilka’s Story also gave better closure to the story of Alessan, the Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold, who was a main character in Moreta, but kind of faded out at the end.  I was genuinely glad to hear what ended up happening with him when all was said and done.  Nerilka did a much better job of looking forward to where Pern was heading following the epidemic.

All in all, I’m still enjoying the Pern novels, some more than others.  But all of them are solid reading, and the world with its complicated socio-economic system and history is really impressive.  Still about a dozen or so to go, so you can anticipate even more Pern coming your way!

The White Dragon // by Anne McCaffrey

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//published 1978//in case you couldn’t tell by the cover art//

In the third book of the “Dragonriders of Pern” trilogy (and the fifth book in the Pern Chronicles…  yeah…), we focus on young Lord Jaxom and his dragon, Ruth.  In Pern, Lords aren’t supposed to become dragonriders, and Jaxom’s bonding with Ruth was a mistake.  Circumstances prevent Jaxom from living in a Weyr and learning how to become a dragonrider in the traditional manner, so Ruth comes to live with Jaxom in his Hold, Ruatha.

Ruth is an anomaly – dragons in Pern are golden (Queens), bronze (who mate with the Queens), green (females who aren’t Queens), browns and blues (males who mate with greens), and there is a specific hierarchy that goes with those colors and their roles in the Weyrs and in fighting the ever-present Thread.  Ruth, however, is a male dragon who is white – an unheard-of color prior to his hatching.  Expected to die soon after he was hatched, because he was weak and small, Ruth defies expectations by growing to adulthood, although he never attains the size of most full-grown dragons.

Our story opens with Ruth and Jaxom finally receiving permission to fly together, and the story follows the pair as they mature into adulthood.  In the meantime, Pern is undergoing many changes and challenges, and Jaxom and Ruth find themselves caught up in the drama and politics.

This is one of, if not the, longest books in the Pern series so far, and there is a lot going on.  I would have been 100% lost if I hadn’t already read all four of the other books, including the first two from the Harper Hall trilogy.  (The third Harper Hall book was published the year after The White Dragon. I read it when I read the other two books a year ago, and even though this book was published first, I’m pretty sure that most of the events in Dragondrums take place after the events from this book…  which is why I generally like to read a series in published, rather than “chronological” order…  thus far, these books have all overlapped a LOT.  I can’t remember for sure, though, and am interested to read Dragondrums again and see how it fits in.)

First off, there is simply the fact that Jaxom is a dragonrider and also a Lord Holder.  Many of the other Lord Holders don’t like this situation, and feel that it’s unfair.

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//I like this cover a bit better//

Then there are the rebellious Old-Timers who were banished in an earlier book.  They were forced to leave the northern continent on Pern, where everyone lives, to go settle in Southern Pern.  However, all of their dragons are getting old, and they are desperate for a Queen who can continue their line.  So desperate, in fact, that they steal a Queen egg from a Northern Weyr, causing much drama and angst.

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//there is a surprisingly large amount of Jaxom-Ruth fanart. They are apparently a popular pair of characters//

Next, there is the problem that Northern is simply running out of room for the population.  Southern is a gigantic continent in comparison, though, so even though part of the banishment agreement was that the Northerners wouldn’t interfere with Southern at all, they basically decide that since the Southerners broke the deal by stealing the egg, they can break the deal and start to look into settling some people in Southern, too.

Add to that the whole thing with Jaxom worried about Ruth’s lack of sexual appetite (more on that momentarily), Jaxom’s illness, the MasterHarper’s deepening interest in the ancients, the discovery of ancient ruins, fire lizard drama, and a few more side plots I can’t remember, and you’ll begin to pick up on the fact that I really felt like there was just too much going on in this book.  It easily felt like it should have been two books, with the themes more thoroughly developed.  As it was, it seemed like there were several loose ends that were never satisfactorily resolved…  they just sort of were introduced, did a few things, and then faded away.  I never really understood what was going to happen with the Old-Timers, or whether or not Lessa was going to be cool with fire lizards, or any other number of things that felt like they could have gone somewhere interesting and instead just petered out.

And then there was the fact that this book definitely had a lot more sexy-time than the others to date.  While not graphic, we definitely had to spend quite a lot of time listening to Jaxom think about the ladies, worry about why Ruth didn’t seem interested in flying either a Queen or a green, and dither about his relationship with both a young holder girl in Ruatha and the sister of the Southern Holder.  I don’t know if it’s because this book was about a teenage boy or what, but I just wasn’t all that interested in that aspect, especially since I still find the whole you-have-sex-with-the-person-who-is-bonded-with-the-dragon-your-dragon-mates-with thing to be weird and a little creepy.  Jaxom thinking about having sex, and then actually having sex and knowing that Ruth is basically in his head while it’s happening just seems super strange to me.

Overall, though, the book was still a good read.  I really liked Jaxom for the most part, and it is always fun to see old friends.  McCaffrey just does an amazing job of building not just a world, but an entire socioeconomic-political system that is complicated yet easy to understand once you get into the groove of the stories.  Reading these books in publication order has definitely been a boon to that understanding.

While I’m not quite ready to consider myself a part of the Pern fandom, I am definitely enjoying the books and looking forward to continuing through the series.

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!!

Dragonsong // by Anne McCaffrey

So I’ve mentioned that I’m trying to read all of the Pern novels in publication order.  But when I started to read The White Dragon, which my list listed as the third book, I recognized a lot of characters from the original trilogy I read (the Harper Hall trilogy), which felt weird, since they, according to my list, were published after The White Dragon.  So I did some more research and guess what!  The White Dragon was published after the first two books in the Harper Hall trilogy.  Go figure.  Apparently, whoever compiled my original list felt like the two trilogies in the Pern books should be together (The White Dragon is the third in the Dragonriders trilogy), even though they were actually published (1) Book 1 of Dragonriders, (2), Book 2 of Dragonriders, (3) Book 1 of Harper Hall, (4) Book 2 of Harper Hall, (5) Book 3 of Dragonriders, (6) Book 3 of Harper Hall.  Okay, first off, why?!  Secondly, that meant I was stranded without a book for the day because I really didn’t want to read The White Dragon until rereading those first two Harper Hall books!  Tragedy!  Thank goodness for the Kindle app on my phone….

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//published 1976// (1976, by the way, comes ::before:: 1978, which is when ‘The White Dragon’ was published)

This was my second time reading Dragonsong.  I read it for the first time a little over a year ago, and while I enjoyed it just fine, I found it a bit confusing.  When I read Dragonflight, McCaffrey’s first Pern novel, a few weeks ago, I immediately realized that Dragonsong and its sequels were going to make so much more sense the second time around.  McCaffrey does a lot of world-building in her first two Pern novels, plus Dragonsong actually takes place at the same (Pern) time as Dragonflight and Dragonquestexcept from the perspective of a different character, so the whole entire story of Dragonsong suddenly made WAY more sense.

All that to say, Dragonsong was much more enjoyable this time around.  It was actually providing background and insight for events I had already read about in the first two books, and those first two books did the same for this one.  They really wove together to give me a much better picture of the story than I got the first time I read this book.

I liked Menolly, the main character, a lot the first time around, and liked her even better this time.  She is intelligent and determined, and even though a lot of things happen to her that she doesn’t understand, she takes them in stride and then finds ways to make sense of them.  I’m already excited about reading more of the Pern books to see how her story continues (especially since I know she’s at least mentioned in The White Dragon!)

I’m greatly enjoying these books on the whole, especially as I get more into the series – McCaffrey spent less time explaining things in this book, which made it go faster (although made it more complicated when I read it the first time!), and kept it as an overall very engaging read.  Definitely recommend!