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Smaug's More Likeable Cousins
on May 9, 2007
"Dragonflight" is the first book in Anne McCaffery's "Chronicles of Pern" series and was first published in 1969. Pern in a world colonised by humans many years before the book's beginning - though, despite the technological advances made to travel to Pern, life has reverted to an almost medieval level.Unfortunately, Pern is also prone to attack be Thread - spores that grow on a neighbouring planet which, in the right conditions, can make the journey between the two worlds. Thread is deadly to all life : it can only be killed by fire on land and its progress is halted only by stone and water. Luckily, Pern's inhabitants have found a useful ally, native to Pern, in their battle with the deadly spores : dragons. The bond between a dragon and its rider is formed when the dragon hatches and lasts for life. Not only can Pern's dragons fly and breathe fire, they can also communicate telepathically with their riders and teleport. In years gone by, dragons and their riders were revered by all. However, as the book opens, it has been many years since the last Threadfall and the reputation of the dragonriders has plummeted. Of the six traditional Weyrs, only an understaffed Benden remains occuppied - which is unfortunate, as Pern's neighbouring planet is moving closer...
Of the book's two main characters, Lessa is introduced first. Although working as a servant in Ruatha Hold - one of several owned by Lord Fax - Lessa is actually the last surviving member of the Hold's true ruling family. Fax took the Hold by conquest several years earlier, and Lessa has survived by keeping her true identity to herself. However, she does aim to have her revenge on Fax someday. F'Lar, meanwhile, is a bronze fragon-rider, and one who holds the traditions of Pern and Weyr-life dear. Unlike Benden's Weyr-Leader, F'Lar is convinced that Thread will soon return to Pern - however, he isn't yet in a position to prepare the defences in the manner required. F'Lar and Lessa first meet due to the imminent hatching of a new Queen dragon. As dragons and their riders bond for life, F'Lar and his colleagues are searching for a suitable partner for their new arrival - preferably, one with the 'correct' bloodline. It's vital the correct choice is made : this new Queen will be the last surviving female capable of breeding.
Overall, I'd day "Dragonflight" was an enjoyable read - though, having already read The Harper Hall Trilogy, not as enjoyable as I'd hoped. The first half of the book felt a little stretched, while the book's ending felt a little rushed. (The book's first section "Weyr Search" was first released as a novella...it may have been better keeping it 'separate'. "Weyr Search" did win the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Novella). Also, where some describe F'Lar as arrogant, I found Lessa quite manipulative - she certainly wasn't quite as likeable as Menolly. Still, worth reading overall - and it is the obvious starting point to the Pern series !