Anne McCaffrey & Todd McCaffrey,
Dragon's Fire
(Del Rey, 2006)

In Dragon's Fire nearly 500 years have gone by since the arrival of the settlers on Pern. The Weyrs and major Holds familiar from other books in the series are well-established, though the loss of their history and technology has begun.

With Thread due to return in a little less than 20 years, the dragons and their riders practice constantly to be ready. But the firestone the dragons need in order to produce flame is horribly volatile. It explodes upon contact with water and it's not a case of if a firestone mine will explode, but when. Even the safest, driest stores eventually explode, so the Weyrs are not able to stockpile the mineral. After losing friends and family to firestone explosions and suffering injuries himself, miner Cristov is determined to find a safer alternative.

A second storyline involves the extinction of the watchwhers, nocturnal guard creatures related to dragons. While dragons acknowledge the relationship, there are those of their riders (and Pernese in general) who see watchwhers as abominations that should be destroyed. The last watchwher queen is in hiding, therefore, her guardians hoping she'll lay a queen egg before she dies.

The third major storyline has to do with Pern's criminal class, the Shunned, people who have been branded and thrown out of their Holds for various crimes. While some Shunned are forced to work in the firestone mines, others live rootless, wandering lives. The Harper Hall has become concerned because not all those living among the Shunned are themselves Shunned -- spouses, children and others. What will happen to them when Thread falls again?

Despite the title, in Dragon's Fire, dragons and their riders are not the focus of the book. Instead, a mute Harper, a journeyman miner and a Holdless girl are the main characters. As their storylines intertwine, we see a quite different side of Pernese society. While on the one hand, we know from established history that things are going to turn out all right in the end, the duo of Todd and Anne McCaffrey still manage to keep the reader guessing.

I read my first Pern book (Dragonsong) many, many years ago when I was in junior high school and am a long-time fan of the series. It was good to revisit Pern.

review by
Laurie Thayer

16 June 2007

what's new