Anne McCaffrey’s fantasy books about Pern were a guilty pleasure for me starting in high school. For years, I picked up every one of the books, until it seemed as if she was simply dashing them off. I understand that the series is continuing, written by McCaffrey’s son Todd.
I recently reread The Dragonriders of Pern for old time’s sake. This book incorporates three of McCaffrey’s Pern novels: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon.
Dragonflight was my introduction to and the first novel in the series, and I still enjoyed the tale of Lessa, revenge, and a new life. Lessa has been living as a kitchen drudge in the hold that Lord Fax invaded when she was a child, murdering the rest of her family, who had been the hold’s rulers. For years she has been nursing her thirst for revenge, and sees an opportunity when F’lar, a dragonrider, comes to the hold in search of female riders for the as-yet unhatched dragon queen. Soon, she finds herself renouncing some of her plans and going off with the weyrfolk. This novel still has all its original magic, featuring a fully realized fantasy world, an immanent threat, and an engaging hero and heroine.
Dragonquest begins seven “turns” after Dragonflight. F’lar and Lessa are now weyrleaders, and they are trying to unite all the weyrs in the battle against thread, which looks as if it might consume their planet. At the end of Dragonflight, Lessa went back in time to bring forward the weyrs from the past for help. Now those weyrs are behaving like a bunch of feudal lords, and F’lar and Lessa are searching for solutions to the problems. This novel was also just as good as I remembered.
The White Dragon seems much more of a children’s novel. Lord Jaxom is the son of Lord Fax, whom Lessa got F’lar to kill in a duel in Dragonflight. As a lord holder, he is expected to take on duties that have nothing to do with weyr life, but when he is a boy, he accidentally impresses a white dragon. The dragon never grows very big and seems to be unsuited to the regular tasks of weyr life. But Jaxom is convinced that his Ruth can fight thread and act just like any other dragon. This novel seems much more juvenile than the other ones, and I find it much less interesting.
I should also say something about the edition, which is cheaply constructed and poorly edited. I found many typos that I don’t think I encountered in the original versions of the novels.