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A novel by Anne McCaffrey
(1984, Doubleday Books)
[original copyright: 1979]

Harper Hall Trilogy, book 3

Reaching an age where he needs to contribute with more than song, a young man sets out on a covert mission as a harper's apprentice, amid jealousy and spite.


+ -- First reading (multibook hardcover)
February 8th to 18th, 2019


Another fun and interesting adventure on Pern, this time from an active boy’s perspective. I really like the way the author has featured talented youth in these books. In this case, Piemur has to deal with jealousy, just as Menolly did in the previous book, and I was disappointed when I thought it would be more of the same from then. But the story took a turn for the better when he went on his special mission, and proved his worth as a sneak, and eventually a survivor out in the Southern wilderness. As with the previous book, it looks like the author really did a lot of research on musical processes.

Spoiler review:

Piemur was a minor character in the previous two books, Dragonsong and Dragonsinger. He was Menolly’s first friend, and gained the trust of her fire lizards enough to feed them daily. He also showed Menolly how to survive. But he had a reputation for getting into trouble, never quite fitting into the structured lifestyle of the Harper Hall. His voice was his main talent, and he desperately wanted a fire lizard of his own.

As this book starts, Piemur’s voice is beginning to change as he grows into a man. This automatically disqualifies him from the upcoming performance. His life is changing, and he worries about what comes next. While Menolly was an insecure girl in Dragonsinger, Piemur becomes more mature through this book. He changes masters, from the voice coach to the drummer, and learns as many drum words as possible, quickly. Like Menolly in the last book, Piemur is extremely talented, and is able to easily pass the other apprentices, and they become jealous of him.

I was worried that the story was just going to be a male counterpart to the previous book, where Menolly went through the same trials. While Menolly worried and the Masterharper eventually had to get involved, Piemur faces his challenges in silence, with a determination that eventually gets him hurt, as he won’t ask for help. It felt natural, but I still felt like we’d gone over this before. The boys soiled his matress and clothing, and eventually put grease on the stairs so that he would slip. He gets a concussion, and could have died. This is when Menolly and Sebell take charge, moving him away from the drum heights in favor of their new mission.

Pirmur also gained the ire of the other drumming apprentices because he was treated specially by the Masterharper, going on missions for them and associating with the fire-lizards. In one mission, he watches young men Impressing dragons. Even the Head of the servants of Benden Weir Impresses one, just as she’s sitting beside him.

The primary mission of this story, however, is the trip to Nabol Hold, where the leader there, who has been at odds with Benden Weir since Thread became a threat again, is dying. But the Master has also been trading with the Oldtimers of Southern Weir, which is against the law, and giving fire lizards to anyone who wants them. Piemur finds out that many of these are clutches of green fire lizard eggs, which do not produce intelligent lizards In his disguise as a servant, he actually manages to steal a queen fire lizard egg, and hide it in Nabol Hold until he can get away. Only he doesn’t get away. He has to hide in a sack of flour, and falls asleep, even as he is transported Between back to Southern Weir. When he wakes, he flees to a beach near a forest, and manages to stay safe from Threadfall, wild Wherries, and even the people of Southern Hold. This was the part of the book that I most enjoyed. Piemur was out of his element, but also most within it, as he was able to use his wits and the knowledge he’d acquired over the years of observing the Harpers, his old Runner shepherd, and Menolly’s fire lizards. He more than just survives -he thrives. He barely survived Threadfall while he Impressed his Queen.

I liked the brief insight we had into Menolly and Sebell’s relationship, as they grew closer, and eventually when their fire lizards flew into their mating flight, which allowed them to consummate their relationship, even before finally acknowledging it even existed. While Piemur reveals himself to one of the Southerners, the couple introduce themselves to the Harper of the south, and create gigantic drums with which to call Piemur. He responded, and shows up on a ship returning from a big harvest.

They all conclude that Piemur can be of greater value as a Drummer at Southern Weir, since he knows all the drum words, and they have need of better communication over the huge range of the Weir/Hold.

I understand the need to put Peimur through the odeals that he goes through in the first half of this book, but I much preferred his adventure alone. Because of that adventure, I think this book is better than the previous one, and more on par with Dragonsong, where Menolly also has her own solitary adventure.


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