27 February 2011


Here is my review of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, as part of Caroline's reading challenge. Hop on over to her blog, Portrait of a Woman for more info.

Dragonflight (The first chronicle of Pern)
Author: Anne McCaffrey
UK Publisher: Corgi
UK Release date: 1968
Genre: Fantasy

Summary (from Goodreads): To the nobles who live in Benden Weyr, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright. But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world. . . .

Review: In a land, where once dragons and their riders were revered and respected above all, the old songs and faith in dragonriders has now diminished. Dragons are near to extinction, and the red star in the sky forewarns of a danger - Threads, which will destroy all life on their planet. Lessa, a young kitchen drudge, has been living only to gain revenge  of the man who killed her family, but when the search for a weyrwoman brings F'lor to her hold he discovers she may be worthy of riding a queen dragon.

"To forestall the incursions of the dreadful Threads, the Pernese, with the ingenuity of their forgotten Terran forebears, developed a highly specialised variety of a life-form indigenous to their adopted planet. Such humans as had a high empathy rating and some innate telepathic ability were trained to use and preserve this unusual animal whose ability to teleport was of great value in the fierce struggle to keep Pern bare of Threads."

To start the plot is slow to develop, trying to build up the many aspects of this planet and the dragon-lore. Through the course of the book the plot accelerates dramatically so that things come much faster towards the end. There is also a great twist in the plot that certainly makes the story a much more interesting read.

Although the characters including their dragons aren't developed enough, there is contrast and interplay between F'lor's leadership qualities and hidden sensitivity and Lessa's determined stubbornness. You do see their relationship develop with them becoming more caring of each other, but this would benefit from more emotional insight. Due to the bonding between dragon and rider they can telepathically communicate with each other, which adds an interesting layer of dialogue. These relationships are the most interesting as they are relaxed and intimate, and I particularly enjoyed the dragon Mnementh's character and witty retorts which added humour. 

The book certainly touches on issues of control, sex and gender. However, they aren't touched on in a sensitive way. For example, as Lessa's and F'lor's dragons mate there is an instinct and tradition for they themselves to mate. F'lor sees the sex they share more as 'rape', however we never hear Lessa's views on their sexual encounters. Whilst I don't necessarily have a problem with their relationship which may or may not be abusive, I feel the story lacks empathy or understanding of feeling that could be so easily explored. We do not know how Lessa feels about these encounters and having to deal with her first sexual partner being thrust upon her. Some consideration has to be given to the fact it was written in the 1960s when gender issues were very different, however the story lacks a vital character perspective by not showing us Lessa's feelings on this topic.

The great part of the story is its science fiction aspects including being able to teleport with your dragon. Other events happen, which I won't detail as I don't want to spoil the plot, but add a real interest and extra dimension to the story. This works much better than the intended 'danger' of the Threads, which don't have a real sense of urgency to them even though they could turn the vegetation to wasteland.

I wouldn't want anyone to be put of by my review, which perhaps seems more negative than intended. Whilst I was initially confused by the setting and the concept of threads, there are events later in the plot that are very unexpected, really interesting, and keep you hooked. Perhaps down to 'first book' issues, I would certainly read on to see how the  characters and plot develops.

Rating: 3.5*


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