The second book in the Harper Hall series, published January 1977. My cover is much more pretty than this old one though, but then my books are the pretty white backed editions, with really gorgeous covers.
The Harper Hall series is part of the Dragonriders of Pern chronicles, a series I love extremely much and have to reread at least once a year.
When Menolly, daughter of Yanus Sea Holder, arrived at the Harper Craft Hall, she came in style, aboard a bronze dragon followed by her nine fire lizards. The Masterharper of Pern, aware of her unique skills, had chosen her as his only girl apprentice. But the holdless girl had first to overcome many heartaches in this strange new life. Two things sustained her – her devoted fire lizards, a subject on which she was fitted to instruct her Masters – and the music … music of compelling beauty, music making where at last she was accepted. In the Great Hall, Menolly could fulfil her destiny.
This book goes on right where Dragonsong ended, so I do recommend you read this lovely little trilogy in order. You will enjoy it much more.
After being rescued by a Bronze Dragon of Benden Weyr, trying to outrun Thread, Menolly is safe. She is finding a place there for herself and her 9 firelizards, helping in the kitchens. But not for long. The Masterharper of Pern has been looking for her, not knowing whom he is looking for. Old Petiron, the Harper of Half Circle Seahold, had sent him some songs made by his apprentice, and they are just the things he needs. A fresh voice, some catchy tunes who stick in your head. So all his Harpers have been looking for the lad, using one particular song to draw him out. But finally, at a Hatching at Benden Weyr, Menolly is discovered as the one they are all looking for. Not to bring her back to her parents, who don’t want her to tune or sing or play music, no to the Harper Hall, where she will be the only female apprentice.
It really is a culture shock for Menolly. No longer being punished for writing songs, but the Masterharper wants her to! Her songs are appreciated, and thought to the other apprentices. The fact that she has Impressed nine firelizards, when they are so much sought after on Pern lately, does cause a lot of jealousy. But she finds a few true friends, and of course there is the music. She is learning how to sing proper by Master Shonagar, and to play the music written by Master componist Domick. His music is truly beautiful to listen to, but not meant for the ordinary people of Pern, who much prefer her twiddlings. They are catchy, people remember the lyrics and the tunes and the subjects are relevant to every day life.
Her feet are healing nicely, thanks to the care of Master Healer Oldive, and even the scar in her left hand is getting better. After being cut while gutting a packtail (a slimy fish) and the slime infected her hand, her mother let it heal wrong, thinking that way she could never use her hands to play music again. But the scar is still fresh enough to be stretched, so Menolly can play her own songs, and the beautiful multi instruments music created by Master Domick.
Menolly gets a great friend in young Piemur, one of the youngest apprentices with a great treble voice, who helps her feed her firelizards, and helps her learn the ropes around the Harper Hall. He really is a rascal, and a fun secondary character. He will get his own book in the third, Dragondrums.
Thanks to Menolly, another clutch of firelizard eggs was found, and they are only recently re-discovered, not being a myth at all, and she is one of the few “experts” Menolly had the care of them back in Benden Weyr. They were handed out to Master Craftsmen and Lord Holders, with instructions how to take care of them. But she reserved two eggs for Master Robinton, and she thought the Queen egg was one of them. Even though there is no sure way of telling that with a firelizard egg, unlike a Dragon egg. So one of Menolly’s jobs is to take care of the eggs, keep them warm, and warn in time for the hatching. And so, the Master Harper (Robinton) and his journeyman Sebel have gotten firelizards of their own. And Menolly has to teach them how to take care of the lovely little creatures.
Well, this whole book takes place in seven days. Menolly has to learn a lot, and adjust even more. From being under appreciated and an embarrassment to her family, to being highly valued and finally allowed to enjoy music and everything that means. She makes some enemies due to jealous people, but also good friends. She is a really great character.
This whole series is just so good. It started out as SF, when colonists from Earth landed on Pern, but when technology broke down, and people evoluted back to agrarians and farmers and fishermen, it became more fantasy in my opinion. The Red Star that travels around Pern, comes close enough every twohundred year, to loose a deadly organism in the air, called Thread. It eats everything organic. That is why the scientists back then created the Dragons out of the tiny firelizards. They eat firestone, and flame Thread right out of the sky. With great risks for the Dragons and their riders. It is every boy and girls dream to be picked by the blue dragons to become a dragonrider. A life filled with privilege, but also with great risk, and a great bond between Dragon and rider. And now, with the re-discovered firelizards, normal people have a chance to experience that bond, in a lesser way.
Anne McCaffrey has created one of the best worlds I have ever had the pleasure of reading about, I just love everything about it. She is now 85 years old, and she still writes books! The Pern series together with her son Todd McCaffrey, but to my opinion, they lost that lovely something. Perhaps the humor and the feelings, I don’t know. But I just can’t enjoy the new ones as much as the old ones. They are more grim somehow.
Yes, there is some romance in the books, not in this trilogy though, but romance is certainly not the focus of the books. And they totally do not feel dated either, even though they are over 30 years old. If you have not discovered this great fantasy and sci-fi author, and you like these genres, be sure to give them a try.
A great world building, great characters, both main and secondary, and they will just steal your heart. What is not to love about being a Dragonrider? It is the Dragon who chooses the rider though, and even the most selfish person will still love and care for his/her Dragon.
Okay, I can keep writing about this world for hours longer, but I won’t. Just read them for yourself.