Dragon's Fire (2006) is the second SF novel in this subseries of the Dragonriders of Pern, following Dragon's Kin. In the previous volume, at Camp Natalon, Kindan trained Natalon's blind daughter Nuella to direct his green watch-wher Kisk. After a cave-in in the mine, Kindan taught her to take Kisk between to the trapped miners and then to bring them back with her.
During the rescue, the watch-wher rebonded to Nuella and changed her name to Nuelsk. Kindan was not very surprised about loosing the watch-wher, for Nuella and Nuelsk made an ideal pair. Besides, he had been asked to tryout at Harper Hall.
In this novel, the Shunned are outcasts from normal society. Many have done evil deeds and so their Holders have Shunned them. But many more among the outcasts are the spouses and children of the Shunned. While innocent of any wrongdoing themselves, they go with their relatives into exile.
The Harper leaders are concerned about the Shunned. The thread will be coming soon and the Shunned will be without shelter. Earlier, they had sent out Journeyman Moran to contact the Shunned, but have not heard anything back from him.
Pellar is the adopted child of Master Zist and Cayla. They are Harpers and he is also a Harper in the eyes of everyone except himself. Pellar excels at instrument making and other Harper skills. He is a graphic artist and can directly contact the mind of dragons. He even has a bronze fire-lizard, Chitter. Yet he is mute and thus cannot sing.
Zist, Cayla and their young daughter Carissa leave Pellar behind when they venture into the wilds to contact the Shunned. He would have been too obvious, but he still wants to go. While Zist and Cayla find the Shunned, they also discover that a disease is killing off many outcasts. Cayla and Carissa catch the disease and die of it.
After Master Zist returns from the disastrous journey, he takes the position of Harper at Camp Natalon. Pellar accompanies him, but stays out of sight. On the journey, Pellar notices someone among the Shunned who leaves yellowtop flowers on the graves of their dead. This person is small and wears bark sandals.
Once they reach the vicinity of the Camp, Pellar hides out while he keeps an eye on Zist and the surrounding countryside. He notices the same footprints and tracks the child. He discovers her hanging from one of his snares and learns that her name is Halla. Pellar also finds the Shunned camp.
In this story, Pellar discovers that Moran has collected a group of Shunned children and is trying to take care of them. Moran has been begging for food -- or money to buy food -- for the children, but sometimes he spends the money on hard drinks. He is well meaning, but is just not a good parent for the children.
Tenim was one of the children raised by Moran. Unfortunately, he has grown up to be a bully. Moreover, he has a falcon that he has trained to attack on order. And he has plans to steal enough coal from Camp Natalon to become rich.
Tarik is the uncle of Natalon -- the chief miner at the camp -- and the father of Cristov. Tarik is allied with Tenim in the plot to steal coal from the mine. He is also going to get rich and then boss his own mine.
This story tells of the circumstances of the Shunned. Even some Lords who had Shunned them are beginning to worry about their fate. The Harpers find that bands of children from Shunned parents are roaming the countrysides. Most of these children won't reach adulthood, dying from untreated diseases and accidents.
Another theme is the dangers of firestone. This ore is especially sensitive to water, exploding or outgassing toxic fumes on contact. Then Kindan begins to research the issue and discovers that firestone may have been different in the far past.
This novel continues the story began in Dragon's Kin and adds new characters. The tale is convoluted and exciting, a good read. Enjoy!
Highly recommended for McCaffrey fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of fire-breathing dragons, valiant heroes and heroines, and a touch of romance.
-Arthur W. Jordin