Dragon Harper (Dragonriders of Pern, The)
by Anne McCaffrey
Review by Harriet Klausner
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345480309
Date: 26 December 2007 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
On the planet of Pern at the hatching grounds of High Reaches Weyr, apprentice harper Kindan is hoping to impress one of the new baby dragons as they come out of their eggs. He is not too disappointed when there is no dragon for him as there will be other clutches for him to try again. The weyrleader of Brendar is sorry that Kindan didn't impress but tells him when he makes journeyman, he will be his harper.
When he returns to Harper Hall, he gets into a fight with the senior apprentice bully over harassing two females. Kindan challenges him to a duel and Masterharper Murenny wants him to win so he sends him to Weyrhold to train for a week. When he returns he fights Vaxoram and wins, making Vaxoram serve him. Over time a friendship forms between this odd couple. Kindan goes to Fort Hold to impress a fire lizard and meets the Lord Holden's daughter Koriana. An attraction springs up between them and when he impresses a bronze and she gold her parents worry about them developing feelings for another that would be felt by their fire lizards who would try to bring them together when the lizards are in heat.
Flu is spreading across Pern and it is jumping from hold to hold in a seven day. Koriana comes to Harper Hall to search the records with Kindan to see if this has happened before and if so, did the inhabitants find a cure for it. They discovered a super flu hit hundreds of Turns ago and it took twenty turns for all the weyrs to recover. Thread is coming in twelve Turns so the weyrs must quarantine themselves so their ranks aren't decimated. Kindan goes back to Harper Hall where he and Vaxoram accidentally burn much of the archives. They are sent to Fort Hold to care for the sick there. They administer to the ill all day until they are ready to drop from fatigue. Lord Holder Bemin helps out as much as Kindan does, as no job is beneath him but unless they find a cure or the flu burns itself out, the holds will lose much of their population which means nobody to tend to the crops and the possibility of famine is very real. The dragonriders drop medicine and food into the holds but otherwise let them fend for themselves. Kindan says to the lord Halden that they will survive this on his word as a Harper.
Anne McCaffrey and her son Todd McCaffrey write about another facet of life on Pern. Readers are thrown into what life is like in a hold and where it fits in the culture of Pern. Koriana's parents do not want their high born daughter to love a lowly harper apprentice but when tragedy strikes, differences in class are put aside and the hard holder learns to like Kindan and would be proud to call him his son-in-law. The plague also burns away his prejudicial hatred of Harper Hall and harpers who help tremendously in this crisis.
Kindan is a young man who has the respect of important people including Bendan's Weyrleader and the Master Harper because of his fight for the under dog and his keen sense of justice. His friends are totally loyal to him and he doesn't take advantage of Vaxoram's subservient position to him after losing the duel. Vaxoram becomes a better person under Kinden's influence and nobody works harder then he does at Fort Hold tending to sick and the dying.
Dragon Harper is a powerful and moving science fiction tale about people of different backgrounds and class coming together to help those in need. This novel compares favorably to all the other Pern tales and it proves the McCaffreys have the magic touch when it comes to world building. This is a stand alone book so that readers, if there are any, who haven't read a book about Pern will have no trouble following the plot.
The support cast is very well developed and bring freshness to the storyline. There are some moments of humor in this tense storyline that come from the protagonists trying to do things his way and his superiors subtly try to help him. Unlike most Pern novels this is more character driven with the antagonist being not a person but a pandemic illness, making it harder to win the battle.