If all life on the planet was about to die and the only way of saving it was suffering from a virulent plague, I imagine people would be at least a LITTLE worried. But apparently the people of Pern don't have that problem. Todd McCaffrey sets plenty of high stakes in "Dragongirl," the latest book in his mother's Pern series, but he ends up making it a mushy, sluggish mass of mediocrity.
Junior Weyrwoman Fiona and her dragon Talenth have returned from the past, where dragons and riders have been training, healing and generally preparing to blast out the Thread. Unfortunately there's STILL a plague that is killing the dragons -- like in every Todd McCaffrey book -- meaning that there aren't enough dragons to save Pern. Yes, again. The man is obsessed with plagues.
Then a tragic disaster hits, leaving countless dragons and riders dead. So Fiona immediately becomes the new Weyrwoman, and takes a position of authority in Telgar just as the plague hits her own dragon... which is very dramatic for about five minutes. Then Lorana and Kindan arrive at the hold, and a tepid love triangle suddenly becomes the centerpiece of the plot.
Todd McCaffrey's Pern books are an excellent illustration of why an author should just retire their bestselling series instead of handing them to someone else. "Dragongirl" has the bones of a brilliant fantasy novel, but those bones are almost buried under a few hundred pages of repetitive flab -- seriously, I felt like screaming every time somebody mentioned that Talenth was going to "rise."
McCaffrey's prose is tepidly mediocre and very stilted ("If you do this, you are no longer of Fort. For by standing by these riders, you stand for Telgar"), and his poetry is even worse. What little plot there is ends up being a string of repetitive crises that are half-forgotten after ten minutes -- he infects Talenth with the plague, has Fiona angst for a day or two, and then PRESTO! she's healed. It's like the man is terrified of any major plot developments.
The deadliest sin this book commits? No tension. No drama. No suspense. At all. EVER. McCaffrey packs the story with endless boring minutiae about life in the Telgar Weyr, usually about stuff that doesn't really matter. I honestly couldn't care less about Fiona's pottery experiences, Bekka's career goals, or what the proper funeral arrangements at Telgar are -- let alone the halfhearted romantic tension. Isn't Pern supposed to be in danger of annihilation?!
And it's pretty hard to care what happens to Fiona -- she's a tepid Mary Sue whom everybody just LOVES, even though she's bossy, stiff and insensitive. And while McCaffrey tries to convince us that she has a deep passionate love for Kindan, the two of them have as much chemistry as a math book -- as do Kindan and Lorana, and Fiona and that other guy whose name I've already forgotten. Even the riders and their dragons barely seem to notice each other.
There are some promising subplots and unique twists at times, but "Dragongirl" is basically a big dough mass of mediocrity. Time for this series to go between.