Book Review: Dragonsdawn (The Dragonriders of Pern) by Anne McCaffrey

Dragonsdawn

Series: The Dragonriders of Pern

Author: Anne McCaffrey

Genre: Science Fiction

Book Description:

The Dragonmakers

The beautiful planet Pern seemed a paradise to its new colonists – until unimaginable terror turned it into hell. Suddenly deadly spores were falling like silver threads from the sky, devouring everything – and everyone – in their path. It began to look as if the colony, cut off from Earth and lacking the resources to combat the menace, was doomed.

Then some of the colonists noticed that the small, dragonlike lizards that inhabited their new world were joined the fight against Thread, breathing fire on it and teleporting to safety. If only, they thought, the dragonets were big enough for a human to ride and intelligent enough to work as a team with a rider…

And so they set their most talented geneticist to create the creatures Pern so desperately needed – Dragons!

Rating: Fascinating, Immersive (by now, a lot of you are probably familiar with my unique take on ‘rating’!)

Review (I don’t think I really had any spoilers to talk much about this time, so there’s only the one review, but be ware: snippets, as usual, as the review draws to a close):

It has been a while since I have read a new Anne McCaffery Pern novel (new to me, that is), and I’d almost forgotten how much I loved her characters and her dragons. I did not really want to read this one since I really can’t stand some of the science fiction elements in it (some of them are, frankly, disgusting and nothing can cover the foul taste), and it’s not as if I care for the ones I can tolerate, but the characters, the dragons, and the awesome writing more than make up for it!

Just read a line of perspective or dialogue, and one can almost feel the pulsating personality of the character, like the whirling eye of a dragon or a fire lizard. There are so many vibrant personalities, and so much humanity, a lot of people who are really very well-intentioned and good-hearted, and some people who are very malicious and selfish, and some people I rather hate. I loved Sean and Sorka so much; I hated Kit Ping and Wind Blossom, the geneticists and it was not just the fact that they were geneticists that bothered me (though that might have been enough), but their personalities, the way they thought about what they were doing and the dragons they were creating, just made me so mad. They weren’t at all identical (oh no, far from it), but both their personalities, just the way they talk, the air they exude, truly gets under my skin. They are such irritating people! Though, there’s something vulnerable and – almost, not quite – sympathetic about Wind Blossom, too. Of course, a lot of people thought about the dragons in a way that made me mad, and I thought it was a wonder that the Dragonriders did not get more upset about that sooner. However they were created, the dragons are very much real persons, quite as much persons as any human!

I really liked Sean and Sorka’s personalities. It’s hard to describe them well, but I really, really liked them. They have all the nuance of real personalities, and I loved the way their relationship unfolds. They have very matched, equal personalities. Their relationship is such a partnership. One of my absolutely favourite male/female romances! I haven’t seen one I have enjoyed that much recently! If ever! And their dragons, bronze Carenath and gold Faranth, each have such awesome personalities that interact so well with their riders! I loved it! I only wished Dragonsdawn had not ended when it did, or that there was another book about Sean and Sorka and Carenath and Faranth, figuring out how to fight Thread, raising the second generation of dragons and Dragonriders, discovering what happened when dragons rose to mate, weaving their way through Pernese politics and establishing the first Dragonweyr. I really wanted that! And I can’t even hope for it (unless someone found a title I missed?) since the author is dead. Anyway, I’m glad I read it.

And, I’ll just mention shortly, I really like the author’s style. She goes into depth on a lot of things that might bore others, but I am used to it and liked it. And she weaves us through the perspectives in a scene or the story that really shows us the most about the characters and what is going on, and it is so very smooth! One knows, without even noticing it, whose thoughts one is listening to. At least, I did. There’s a lot of different characters, too. It is really so much about the characters, my favourite thing in a novel! Sallah and Tarvi and Avril and Ongola and Sorka and Sean and so many others! About who they are, the choices they make, and why. Not just the plot!

And let me share with you one of the first lines I read (since I picked up Dragonsdawn on the last couple pages and mostly read the book back to front). It just showed me Sean and Carenath so much I fell in love at once! It’s the first time dragons and riders have ever fought Thread and I loved it so much!

Sean locked his jaw against the pain each time Carenath was scored.…

Faranth asks how long will we fight? Carenath asked.

As long as we have firestone to fight with! Sean replied grimly. He had just taken a facefull of char. In the back of his mind he noted that full face masks would be useful.

And here is the interaction between Sean and Carenath after the first time ever that a rider and dragon fly between (accidentally, from Sean’s perspective, I might say). It was hilarious, might I add!

It was easy, you know. You thought me where to go, and I went. You did tell me to go as fast as possible. Carenath’s tone was mildly reproving.

And here is some of Sorka and Faranth. When Sorka is going into labor.

“Yes, it is. What’s so funny?” [Sean] added. She could not quite see his face in the light, but he sounded solemn, almost indignant.

“The welcoming committee, of course. All of them. Faranth, love, are all present and accounted for?”

We are here, Faranth said, where we should be. You are amused.

“I am very amused,” said Sorka.

The welcoming committee are the dragonets or fire lizards, the entire fairs Impressed to Sean and Sorka.

“Don’t you dare wake everyone up, Faranth. I’m only having a baby.”

You hurt! You are in distress! Faranth was indignant.

And Sean again (or earlier, rather; these quotes are all out of order):

Sean grinned. “Jays, what times we’ll have then, old fella, won’t we?”

The tenderness, the concern, and the deep affection in Sean’s voice was almost embarrassing to hear.

And here are the young dragons bathing. Their personalities are so vibrant! Ooh, I loved them so much!

“Carenath, behave yourself!” Sorka and Sean spoke in the same sharp tone.

I am already clean, you polka-dotted idiot, Faranth said in an excellent mimicry of one of Sorka’s admonitions. I was nearly dry, and now my oiling has to be done again.

I love how their personalities bleed through every word! It is all so perfect! There is so much in this book. So much in just a few pages! One wonders how it can all fit in such a few short words. I just wished there was more, as I said earlier.

I won’t share snippets of this, but it was so wonderful the way the fire-dragonets protected the people and the animals from Thread as well as they were able. So endearing and brave and cute!

I liked many of the other characters, too, as people. All of them were great as part of the story! I always liked reading Sallah’s perspective and getting to know Sallah’s thoughts. Sallah Telgar is a really interesting person with a really engaging personality and perspective, but I won’t share snippets. It’s really hard to find snippets that work alone. Every word, the whole scene, reinforces and brings out everything in every other word, and I liked it all so much!

For this reason, I am probably not going to find any snippets of Sorka and Sean’s early relationships, their just budding friendship, and their courtship, though it was all really, really good, just as good, in fact, as the dragons! One of my very favourite courtships I have ever found in a novel. They’re both sweet, kind, compassionate, and full of personality and vigor and strength! It was so awesome watching (in my case, after having read almost the entire rest of the book) how Sorka first meets Sean in the garden of the space ship, how they watch the fire-dragonets together, and the budding friendship of two kids that slowly overcomes some of Sean’s skepticism about the good will of anyone. Sean is such a well-rounded human being and he grows so much through out the story, as is expected from a young kind (about thirteen or so, I think) to being a young man, one of the first bronzeriders of Pern, a Dragonrider who is going to fly Thread with his dragon, and their first leader, the first (not yet so-named) Weyrleader ever, and just as much the first Wingleader. Oh, I loved it! And Sorka is just as great! She has so much personality! … I should have talked about Sallah more, but let me just share a little snippet that (I hope) shows something else the author did really well: show in a few words what things feel like. The descriptive, the emotional quality, is all really good! Even though I am afraid to ruin it by showing a few sentences taken out of the whole; oh well, you can probably not read it if you want, and if you do, I probably won’t ruin the effect when you finally read the whole! At least, I sincerely hope not.

It was frightening, Sean thought. It was wonderful. It was the finest moment in his life, and he was scared stiff. …

After that first exhilarating cross of Threadfall, they all got down to business, until flame and evasion became instinctive. …

Manooth says they have no more firestone! Carenath announced suddenly after a nearly mindless length of fighting time.

I loved it so much! It was so affectionate and epic (in a very personal way; personal epic is the only kind of epic I think) and I just loved it so much, and I did not want it to end, and I want to read about everything that comes after, the founding of Fort Weyr, Sean and Carenath learned how to fly Thread better and perfecting techniques and practice with all the other Dragonriders, Faranth’s first clutch, all of it! I think I am trying to prolong the experience of reading the book by writing this review. Nonetheless, I will end it with one last cute snippet of Carenth. Behold his bronze glory, so affectionate and brave and lovable, after flying Thread so bravely and whimpering from his scores:

Is everyone here to see us? Carenath asked shyly.

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