Dragonflight centers on a fantasy cross-over world. Review by Violet Kane

Book Cover
Anne McCaffrey's world of Pern comes to life in this fan favorite, but apart from the concept—unique at its inception in alternative reality fiction—I found Dragonflight largely unremarkable. Perhaps I lack a certain affection for dragons otherwise possessed by her fans.

The world of Pern is a definitively non-earth planet, despite the ground-level resemblance. While human culture on Pern is strikingly medieval, a species of animals that looks like, and is thus dubbed by early human colonists as dragons, is part of Pern's essential ecology. Only their fiery breath—brought on by digesting certain indigenous minerals—can destroy the Thread, a dangerous phenomenon that comes down from the sky under certain conditions to threaten crops, agriculture, wild foliage—or anyone in their path. It has been, however, three hundred years since the last Threadfall, and the institutional system of dragon weyrs that had long served to protect Pern is being called into question. Not least of which because all but one weyr were abandoned centuries before. Amid the arguments and the power struggles over the future of the weyrs and the possibility of Threadfall, young Dragonrider F'lar emerges as a traditionalist, bent on keeping up the old ways because he is convinced a new Threadfall is imminent. But he can't do it alone. The weyr hierarchy has been corrupt, and he needs to find a new weyr-woman to set it right—a woman who has to power to communicate with the Queen dragon and guide her through the tumultuous mating in the hopes of breeding a new army of dragons.

Some may argue over whether Pern is science fiction or fantasy. Despite the other-planet setting and human colonists, it is essentially fantasy. Aspects of the story that would otherwise be explained by magic are explained, rather, at phenomena indigenous to Pern's environment. The medieval-like culture of the colonists is centuries old and grounded in fantasy tradition. Much attention in this book is paid to the development of the fantasy world "physics" and to the dragons. I have never been a fan of non-human characters in fantasy, and non-humanoid ones are even less interesting to me, but from what I gather, McCaffrey has quite a following of dragon-loving fans. Apart from the dragons, there is the Threadfall conflict, which I did not find especially compelling. It took me many chapters to understand the Thread concept and frankly—pun, I suppose, intended—I found it a little flimsy. Then again, I've also never been a fan of conflicts about other-worldly dangers—meteorological or otherwise—descending upon the characters. McCaffrey does, to her credit, weave the Threadfall conflict into what is on some level a character story. F'lar's quest to convince his fellows of the imminence of Threadfall and his interaction with new weyr-woman, Lessa, takes center stage throughout most of the book. But these characters and their story are old standards. The character conflict does not boast any unexpected or fresh twists. I did not personally feel a sense of risk, a worry that the characters would not reach their goals. The prime character conflict, between F'lar and Lessa, is perhaps the widest-spread standard in all of modern storytelling: the romance. Their will-they-or-won't-they conflict unfolds such that it would fit well into any romance novel two aisles over at the bookstore.

This book, would, consequently be a good cross-over for any romance fans. Science fiction fans, however, will find it too much fantasy for their tastes, despite outward appearances. Those fantasy fans enamored with dragons will probably enjoy it. But the character-conflict, the one part of a story that intrigues me most, is a predictable standard, without any of the risks or twists that make character stories worth reading for me.


Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.