Anne McCaffrey
Dragonquest Cover



I bought the 'Dragonriders of Pern' trilogy some time ago and to be honest I was pretty disappointed with the first book 'Dragonflight' so let the volume gather dust. In a pique of 'read this or donate it away' I decided to give the second volume a whirl and see if my opinions have changed.

The answer sadly is no. This is quite a poor novel that did very little for me. Set seven Turns (think years) after the events of Dragonflight there is discord between the Old-timers Lessa brought back and F'lar and his crazy ideas about modernisation. In essence the novel is about the clash between tradition and new ways of thinking. Barriers are broken down in people's perception and in some ways it is quite cute how the inhabitants of Pern are learning and developing and increasing their knowledge and place in the universe.

What is a pity is that McCaffrey didn't spend more time on her craft or learn any lessons from the first novel. This novel is pedestrian - hardly anything of interest happens in the novel, and very little in the first hundred pages. It's just a bunch of dialogue between boring people who are nondescript and interchangeable (for instance I continually mixed up F'lar and his half-brother F'nor and realised actually I didn't give a shit as they were both the same anyway). The Lord Holders (think 'regional' rulers) are petty, childish and foolish. There is no nuance or even menace to them. The Old-timer Weyrleaders are indistinguishable. This felt like a bunch of uninteresting characters nattering away boring me to death.

What is uncomfortable to read is the horrible misogyny in the book. In 'Dragonflight' F'lar basically knocked Lessa about and raped her until she loved him. McCaffrey uses the exact same plot device in this one. F'lar's half-brother F'nor decides he 'loves' Brekke, a sort of second tier Weyrwoman and rapes her. Standards of the time may suggest he 'seduced her' but basically he takes her despite her virginal protestations (we are led to believe she is quite a young girl rather than a grown woman). She yields and they are in love. Like the first novel - the idea is men can rape women and they will love him for it.

Lessa goes from being the innovative saviour of the planet and leader of the Dragonkind to a supporting actor to her beau F'lar. Indeed, she is nothing but dressing here and it is almost ret-conned that F'lar is the hero, not Lessa. I remember Kyalara from the first novel to be a little manipulative but a little racy whilst being competent. In this novel she's painted as 'bitch-slut central' with little explanation or depth. All of a sudden she's dropped from the novel like a bad idea as she winks out of existence (or may as well have). Still, we know she's bad because McCaffrey / F'nor tells us she wants a slap.

Don't get me started on lovely Brekke. Have you ever thought it ridiculous in 'Revenge of the Sith' when Queen Amidala - Stateswoman, combat seasoned, no-nonsense leader just F'kin (see what I did there!) GIVES UP and dies of a broken heart despite being a soon to be mother to Jedi twins? Well Brekke is exactly the same - for virtually half the novel she is a like a wet weekend and totally helpless and boring. We get it - we don't like dragons dying.

There are some slivers of a good book in here. When things happen, it's actually quite exciting. The Rising of Queens, the Hatching and the mission to the Red Star are pretty good, it's just happens so infrequently. The world and it's history develops quite a lot in this book and it opens possibilities for other novels. The Dragons themselves are awesome and the most interesting characters in the book (and they do have depth unlike the humans). Even though I am really annoyed with this book, knowing I have the third book there are plot hooks I am interested to see resolved.

Poor plot, awful structure and characters made out of cardboard combined with horrible sexism that grates throughout. Avoid.