"Dragon's Kin," while not up to the standard of most of the earlier Pern novels, is far better than the last bunch about F'lessan.
The basic plot is as follows. Kindan wants to be a Harper, and has vocal and musical talent. He's about eleven or twelve when the book opens, and is kind of at loose ends; his favorite sister is marrying, his brothers are distant, and as the youngest of nine children, his father seems rather remote. Kindan does have a close friend, Zenor, who's a few months older, but that's about it.
And things are even more odd in this family than in most, because Kindan's father is bonded to a watchwher (distant cousins of both the fire lizards and the dragons), and lives different hours than most people as watchwhers are nocturnal. At any rate, Kindan doesn't realize how different his life is than most, although his friend Zenor does (and is envious of it).
And because of where he lives, Kindan gets to know more about watchwhers than most people. This might be considered an advantage by many, but not by Kindan. His heart is elsewhere.
Then disaster strikes, and most of Kindan's family gets wiped out in a mining accident. The watchwher dies helping to get the few miners who survived the accident out of the mine, and Kindan is left totally alone for the first time in his life. He has mixed feelings about this, but for the most part, those feelings are never brought to the fore.
Because of this, Kindan doesn't feel totally fleshed out as a character; he's never allowed to fully grieve. And even amidst a bunch of folks who are also grieving, I doubt Kindan -- or any child, no matter how mature -- would be as matter of fact about losing all his family.
Be that as it may, because Kindan is no more than twelve, he can't live alone, and he's not cut out for work in the mine. Fortunately, everyone realizes this, and he goes to live with the Harper. A brief idyll ensues, as Kindan enjoys helping the Harper and gets to know Nuella, a blind girl whose been hidden from most of the folks at the minehold due to her disability.
Then another disaster happens in the mine, and its determined that another watchwher must be sought. For whatever reason, the minehold of Natalon (that's the head miner) is now considered to be accursed by some (although this is never fully gone into, either), and no grown watchwher or his/her handler will go there.
However, if a watchwher can be raised from the egg, then they'll have some protection. Watchwhers are good in mines; they can detect bad air faster than humans can, and as they see by infrared, they're very good at rescue as well (as was seen by the loss of the previous watchwher).
What does this have to do with Kindan? Plenty, as he's the only person in the minehold -- the only one -- who knows anything at all about watchwhers.
(Spoiler warning below) *****
Basically, Kindan is forced to go find a watchwher egg despite not really knowing much about how to raise a watchwher. Then, after he brings it home and it hatches, Nuella shows a great talent with the watchwher, but does not bond with the new fledgling, so the new watchwher (dubbed Kisk) stays with Kindan.
How does this all play out? It's for you to read. (Don't want to spoil it any more than that.)
**** end of spoiler warning ****
The reason this gets three stars, rather than the four I was initially contemplating, is that the characterization (other than that of the blind Nuella) isn't as strong as most of the other Pern books. But it is at least the equal in characterization of the latter books (starting with "All the Weyrs of Pern" and continuing outward from that year), and it reads easier than most of those.
But is it the equal of the earliest of the Pern books about Lessa and F'lar? No. Is it the equal of the earlier YA novels about Menolly, Sebell, and Piemur? No.
So, although this is a good coming of age tale (and is definitely intended for younger audiences in my opinion, although older readers also will enjoy the book), and although it reads fast and easily, it's not great.
And what makes it less than what it could have been lays solely along the lines of characterization. This book doesn't make the reader look for underlying meaning. In "Dragon's Kin," the underlying meanings are either too plain, or too subtle; either one might have worked, but not both.
One final comment: I believe that Todd McCaffrey helped this book, rather than hindered. This book has much more life than most of the last books (anything after "All the Weyrs of Pern" in sequence) except for "Master Harper of Pern," and I think that's because of Mr. McCaffrey's contribution. And it's because of the life and liveliness of the book that I read until the end, and (for the most part) enjoyed it.