||Another standout offering of life on
Pern, though this book did not quite have the punch that the two
previous books had.
takes place mostly from the perspective of Jaxom of Ruatha, the young
Lord Holder who accidentally Impressed the runt of a clutch of eggs back
in Dragonquest. He is another amazing character, who grows from
an adolescent between worlds into one of his own.
But Jaxom is a character of Pern, which
means that he interacts with the world and the other characters, like
Lessa and F'lar, and Masterharper Robinton. Jaxom's problem is that he
is not a dragonrider, though he is linked with a dragon, and he is not a
Lord Holder, for Lytol is warding the place for him until he is mature
enough. He is being trained to take over Ruatha Hold, but feels that he
has no impact on it.
We learn more about the history of Pern
in this novel than the two pervious ones. This book also covers more
backstory, in that is is constantly replaying what occurred in the last
books, though it is very well presented, either through thoughts or
words -never pure exposition.
The story is actually more about the
southern continent, which was left unprotected and uninhabited for so
long. Robinton has been exploring it secretly, because of the contract
that F'lar made with the Oldtimers who went into exile there. Although
some Oldtimers remained in the north, most went into retirement in the
south, and resent F'lar and everybody else. Their first act in this book is to steal
a queen egg from Ramoth's most recent clutch, leading Lessa into a
hysterical frenzy and murderous rage. She is about to start a war when
the egg is mysteriously returned, and common sense also returns. We
don't get to witness all of the politics that go on, this time, because
we are mostly with Jaxom.
Jaxom is trying to become a
dragonrider, because he is teased about his small dragon, who sometimes
seems more like a fire-lizard than a dragon, at least to other people.
So he secretly teaches Ruth to chew firestone and fly between.
It is the people and relationships that
keep this story going, as Jaxom seduces young Corana so that she is an
excuse for him to be away unattended, so that he can secretly train Ruth, for example. Jaxom is truly an adolescent from a
in the way he satisfies his lusts. Ruth is a magnet for the
fire-lizards, which allows Ruth to gain an image of where and when the
stolen egg is being hidden, so that he can rescue it and return the egg
to Ramoth's hatching ground. I had a feeling that it was Jaxom who did
it, as he felt all queasy around that time. There is also Lytol, who is
saddened every time he sees Ruth because he is reminded of the dragon he
outlived as a dragonrider.
Things start to pick up on the exploration
of Pern when Jaxom catches a disease in the south and is bedridden in a
tiny southern cove for months. He is nurtured back to health by
beautiful Brekke, who lost her golden queen tragically in the
and by Sharra, sister to the leader of the Southern Hold. I am not fond
of the status the women of Pern have, being subject to the whims and
orders of the men. Sure, the Holders have a say in the politics of
marriage, but that must include every family member, then, not just the
sisters. For that matter, why are all Holders men? In any case, Sharra
and Jaxom start up a relationship even though they know her brother has
political plans for her.
As Robinton suffers a heart attack,
things start to go out of control on the Southern continent. Robinton
always had plans to find the traces of human habitation on Pern. Jaxom,
finally allowed to ride between again, finds the settlement of the
original settlers, who were driven away by a series of volcanic
eruptions. The scene was depicted so well that I could see the huge
region of once-active volcanoes clearly in my mind. Jaxom then finds the
spacecraft that the settlers arrived in! F'lar and the others find out a
great deal about so many things in such a short time, including the fact
that three stars that have always been in their sky are actually metal
orbs -spacecraft capable of traveling to other stars. I think this
section of the book was meant to give us the great revelation and sense
of awe, but it just didn't have the emotional impact that two fighting
golden dragons had in Dragonquest, or the initial thrust into Pern
society of Dragonflight.
I wondered if the dragons were
continuing to evolve, perhaps even beyond their riders. The way the
dragons spoke into Robinton's mind when he was ready to die, and Ruth's
call to Brekke (who can hear all dragons) and to Sharra when he needed
her help, indicates that the dragons are capable of more.
While so many people were so busy
building a Hold for the recovering Robinton at the cove, I mourned the
loss of the secluded place. Fortunately, they seemed to keep the cove,
at least, pristine. The dragons were hilarious as they started digging
out the ancient ruins, like dogs let loose to play in the dirt. F'lar
had plans for dragonriders once Thread was gone at the end of this Fall,
but I didn't realize how many other talents dragons had!
In fact, F'lar divides up the southern
continent after he ends up killing Southern's oldtimer weyrleader in
another duel (sparked by the egg theft and an attempt to usurp a bronze
mating flight). Pern is thriving like no time since the ancient
settlers, and there is not enough space for young Holders to live and
rule. Half of the continent goes to them. The other half will be for
dragonriders, so that they won't be dependent on Holds for food and
other supplies -they will take care of their own until the Red Star
Other characters of note are Mennoly, a
young Harper who becomes very good friends with Jaxom, and Toric, who is
Sharra's brother and leader of Southern Hold. I really liked Mennoly,
and wondered if a marriage between Hold and Craft was likely to be
permitted. But we saw how she was attached to somebody else, and he found Sharra. Toric has been expanding his territory, and probably planned to
Hold the entire continent, if he could, before he is out-manoeuvred by
F'lar and Jaxom.
Jaxom really takes charge after
learning about Toric's plans for Sharra. He decides that he is a Lord
Holder, and goes about making the mature decisions that will gain him
that status. He ends up marrying Sharra and becoming a true Lord Holder
and keeping Ruth, who is better at so many things than the much larger
dragons are. He has a better memory, and can communicate with the
fire-lizards, who have some sort of racial memory, at least for big
I noted how there are no real bad guys
in these books, which makes them highly unusual in the science fiction
and fantasy genre. The Oldtimers are more nuisance than bad guys, though
they occasionally turn enough of a serious threat to be fatal.
As flexible as F'lar and Lessa are,
compared to the Oldtimers, they still need the ancient traditions and
the respect of the Lord Holders. Jaxom, in this book, has learned a new
way, and is changing the world the way that F'lar and Lessa did in
So many things occurred in this book,
but they were part of daily life, and they happened very naturally. The
book was a progression of events, all packed into a small space, making
it a wonder. There is not really much to talk about in terms of specific
events, because the characters grew so much. I liked the characters a
lot, which made the book very enjoyable. I feel like I've been reading
about these characters for years, like other great novels, yet I only
started this series less than a year ago!
There are still mysteries to solve
regarding Pern, upon which the sequels will undoubtedly build. We now
know why the histories warn about leaving the southern continent alone
-because is is so vast and much of it is unstable (a simple reason,
which turned into a taboo thousands of years later). The question is
where do F'lar and the others go from here? Why couldn't the settlers
return to their starships and leave Pern? Hopefully some of these things
will be answered in the sequels.