For June’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge, I reread Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy: Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, and Dragondrums.
These books were my first introduction not only to McCaffrey’s dragon world Pern, but to fantasy (other than the Chronicles of Narnia). I found Dragonsong at the library and devoured the trilogy, then other books in the series.
For those of you somehow not familiar with McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, it’s, well, it’s a series about people who live on the planet Pern and ride dragons. There’s this stuff, Thread, that falls from the sky and destroys every living thing it comes in contact with. The original colonists genetically engineered fire lizards into fire-breathing dragons that telepathically team up with riders to fly around and destroy Thread, protecting the cave-dwelling people of the planet. The society is loosely based on feudal Europe, and there’s lots of plotting and scheming and intrigue mixed into the books.
The Harper Hall trilogy unfortunately didn’t hold up as well as I’d remembered. As a kid I should’ve read Dragonflight first, as that’s the first Pern book, and there are a lot of references to the world and other characters and events in the Harper Hall book. I knew that then, and I noticed it again this time through.
Unfortunately, most of the books are like that. For McCaffrey, it’s not so much the characters, or the plots, as the fact that she has her own world! With its own cultures, and customs, and music, and traditions, and ways of life, and flora and fauna and names!
While there’s character development (Menolly in books 1 and 2, and Piemur in book 3), I had the distinct impression while reading that it was only to showcase her world. Menolly, a girl, can’t become a harper because that’s a boy job. But wait, she can because the world is changing! Let’s travel the world and learn all about it while watching her grow. Same with Piemur, who has to find a place for himself after his voice changes and he can’t be a singer.
One thing I will give McCaffrey credit for, however, is breaking the gender barrier for fantasy. She was a successful author with dozens of books under her belt, and she wrote strong female characters (like Menolly). Her influence is apparent in the work of many other fantasy and sci-fi writers, even if her books all kind of blend together.