Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Dragonsong 1978 cover Dragonsong (1976)
Dragonsinger (1977)

Pern series novels
books one and two Harper Hall trilogy

Bantam 1978 paperbacks
Dragonsong - 176 pages
Dragonsinger - 240 pages
cover art by Elizabeth Malczynski
Dragonsinger 1978 cover

From the back cover of 1978 edition of Dragonsong:
       Every two hundred years or so, shimmering threads fall, raining black ruin on Pern.  The great dragons of Pern hurl themselves through the beleaguered skies, flaming tongues of fire to destroy deadly Thread and save the planet.  It was not Threadfall that made Menolly unhappy.  It was her father who betrayed her ambition to be a Harper, who thwarted her love of music.  Menolly had no choice but to run away.  She came upon a group of fire lizards, wild relatives of the fire-breathing dragons.  Her music swirled about them; she taught nine to sing, suddenly Menolly was no longer alone.

From the back cover of the 1978 edition of Dragonsinger:
       Menolly arrived in triumph at the Harper Hall, aboard a bronze dragon.  She had run away from home and lived in a cave, outrun the dread Threadfall, impressed nine fire lizards and written songs that pleased the Masterharper of Pern.  But what was her future at the hall to be?  It seemed she was always late or her fire lizards underfoot, and why didn't any of the other girls like her?  Now that there was nothing to keep her from her beloved music and fire lizards, could Menolly learn to live among others, realize her talent and find her rightful place in the future of Pern?

From the back cover of 2003 edition of Dragonsong:
"Menolly longs to see a dragon, but even more, she wants to be a Harper--to sing, play, and write the tunes that come so naturally to her.  To escape her father's edict of banishment from singing because she is a girl, Menolly runs away and seeks refuge in a cave.  There she becomes friends with nine fire lizards, small relatives of the huge dragons, and teaches them to sing....McCaffrey uses great imaginative powers in constructing her intricate and intriguing story."

From the back cover of 2003 edition of Dragonsinger:
"A well-thought-out sequel to Dragonsong about the planet Pern and the apprentice harper Menolly, McCaffrey's fantasy celebrates the power of music.  At Harper Hall, the music conservatory on Pern, Menolly is initially unaware of the extent of her own powers, since, due to her sex, her musical skill had been suppressed in her homeland.  Moreover, she encounters hostility because all of Pern's other harpers -- who are more powerful than kings in a world where music literally controls minds -- are men.  Gradually, she gains confidence with the help of new friends, teachers, and nine of the planet's rare fire lizards who themselves are excellent singers with mysterious powers....  The transformation of Menolly from a terrified outcast to a woman secure within herself is skillfully handled, making her a sympathetic character with whom many readers will identify."
--School Library Journal

Read for group discussion on March 23, 2005

Dragonsong 2003 cover More covers:

Simon Pulse 2003 paperbacks
Dragonsong - 192 pages
Dragonsinger - 277 pages
cover art by Greg Call
Dragonsinger 2003 cover

How we each rated these books
Dan 7 Amy 7 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 8 Barb -
Aaron 6 Cynthia -
Jackie 6 Ron 5
Christine 8 Deb 5
Mike - Stephanie 8
Gary 6 Natalie 9

Aaron's Commentary   Anne McCaffrey - Dragonsong / Dragonsinger

I'm not a great fan of the Pern series, but Dragonsong and Dragonsinger work a little better for me than most.  Because they are targeted at young adults, McCaffrey stays focused on her sympathetic and humble protagonist Menolly, with a fairly small supporting cast, instead of jumping back and forth between too many interchangeable characters as she tends to do in her other Pern books.  At times, watching Menolly cower like an abused puppy gets tiresome, but the scenes when she finally realizes her own abilities (for instance, her first performance in a quartet with trained musicians) work very well.  I don't see that Menolly's parents needed to be quite so despicable, but that's a minor quibble.  Overall I enjoyed these books, even though they suffer in comparison to Orson Scott Card's "Unaccompanied Sonata," a far more powerful look at a talented musician forbidden to play music.

As an aside, sometimes I can nearly suspend disbelief in Pern, but in these books it struck me as preposterous that McCaffrey even attempts to present the story as science fiction.  The story rings of fantasy from start to finish, and McCaffrey is clearly not comfortable with the most basic principles of science - the Law of Conservation of Mass, for instance, which tells us that eggs don't get heavier as they near hatching.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also read the following books by Anne McCaffrey
-- Dragonflight  in July 1996

Anne McCaffrey (1926-   ) is a US born writer of science fiction and fantasy who has lived in Ireland since 1970.  She was the first woman to win both the Hugo and Nebula Awards

1968 Hugo Award for novella "Weyr Search"
1969 Nebula Award for novella "Dragonrider"
2005 SFWA Grand Master Award

Dragonriders of Pern trilogy

-- Dragonflight (1968)
-- Dragonquest (1971)
-- The White Dragon (1978)
The Dragonriders of Pern (1978), omnibus edition

Harper Hall Trilogy
-- Dragonsong (1976)
-- Dragonsinger (1977)
-- Dragondrums (1979)
The Harper Hall of Pern (1984), omnibus edition

A third Pern trilogy
-- Dragonsdawn (1988)
-- Renegades of Pern (1989)
-- All the Weyrs of Pern (1991)

Other Pern books
-- Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern (1983)
-- Nerilka's Story (1986), short novel
-- Chronicles of Pern: First Fall (1993), collection of 5 stories
-- The Dolphins of Pern (1994)
-- Dragonseye (1997) (UK title Red Star Rising)
-- The Masterharper of Pern (1998)
-- A Gift of Dragons (2002), collection of 4 stories
-- On Dragonwings (2003), omnibus of Dragonsdawn, Dragonseye, and Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
-- Dragon's Kin (2003, with Todd McCaffrey)
note: -- Dragonblood (2004) is a Pern novel by Todd McCaffrey
-- Dragon's Fire (2006, with Todd McCaffrey)
-- Dragon Harper (2007, with Todd McCaffrey)

Acorna series

-- Acorna: The Unicorn Girl (1997, with Margaret Ball)
-- Acorna's Quest (1998, with Margaret Ball)
-- Acorna's People (1999, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Acorna's World (2000, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Acorna's Search (2001, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Acorna's Rebels (2003, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Acorna's Triumph (2004, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)

Brain & Brawn Ship, or Ship Who Sang, or Brainship series
-- The Ship Who Sang (1970)
-- PartnerShip (1992, with Margaret Ball)
-- The Ship Who Searched (1992, with Mercedes Lackey)
-- City Who Fought (1993, with S.M. Stirling)
-- Ship Who Won (1994, with Jody Lynn Nye)
note: -- The Ship Errant (1996) is by Jody Lynn Nye
-- Ship Avenged (1997, with S.M. Stirling)
-- Brain Ships (2003, with Mercedes R. Lackey & Margaret Ball), omnibus of PartnerShip and The Ship Who Searched
-- The Ship Who Saved Worlds (2003, with Jody Lynn Nye), omnibus of The Ship Who Won and The Ship Errant
-- The City and the Ship (2004, with S. M. Stirling), omnibus of The City Who Fought and The Ship Avenged

Crystal Singer series
-- Cystal Singer (1982)
-- Killashandra (1986)
-- Crystal Line (1992)
The Crystal Singer Trilogy (1996), omnibus edition

Coelura series
-- The Coelura (1983), sf short novel
-- Nimisha's Ship (1999)

Dinosaur Planet or Ireta series
-- Dinosaur Planet (1977)
-- Dinosaur Planet Survivors (1984)
The Ireta Adventure (1985), omnibus edition
The Mystery of Ireta (2004), omnibus edition

Planet Pirates series
Written by other authors from outlines and discussions with Anne McCaffrey
based on Dinosaur Planet books
-- Sassinak (1990, with Elizabeth N. Moon)
-- Death of Sleep (1990, with Jody Lynn Nye)
-- Generation Warriors (1991, with Elizabeth N. Moon)
The Planet Pirates (1993, with Elizabeth N. Moon & Jody Lynn Nye), omnibus edition

Doona series
-- Decision at Doona (1969)
-- Crisis on Doona (1992, with Jody Lynn Nye)
-- Treaty Planet (1994, with Jody Lynn Nye)
Doona (2004, with Jody Lynn Nye), omnibus of Crisis on Doona and Treaty at Doona

Freedom or Catteni series
-- Freedom's Landing (1995)
-- Freedom's Choice (1997)
-- Freedom's Challange (1998)
-- Freedom's Ransom (2002)
The Book of Freedoms (2002), SFBC omnibus of first three books

Petaybee series
-- Powers that Be (1993, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Power Lines (1994, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Power Play (1995, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)

The Twins of Petaybee series
-- Changelings (2006, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Maelstrom (2006, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)
-- Deluge (2008, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough)

Talent or Daffyd op Owen series
-- To Ride Pegasus (1973)
-- Pegasus in Flight (1990)
-- Pegasus In Space (2000)

Tower and the Hive series
-- The Rowan (1990)
-- Damia (1992)
-- Damia's Children (1992)
-- Lyon's Pride (1994)
-- The Tower and the Hive (1999)

Other Genre related books
-- Restoree (1967), sf novel, her first novel
-- Cooking Out of this World (1973), cookbook with recipes from SF writers
-- Rescue Run (1991), sf novelette
-- An Exchange of Gifts (1995), fantasy novelette or short story
-- Black Horses for the King (1996), young adult historical Arthurian
-- No One Noticed the Cat (1996), fairy tale, short novel
-- Serve It Forth (1996, with John Gregory Betancourt), cookbook, some recipes from sf authors
-- A Diversity of Dragons (1997, with Richard Woods), illustrated by John Howe
-- If Wishes Were Horses (1998), fantasy novella

Story collections
-- Get Off The Unicorn (1977), 14 stories
-- The Girl Who Heard Dragons (1994), 15 stories

Romance Books
-- The Mark of Merlin (1971), gothic romance
-- Ring of Fear (1971), romantic novel of suspense
-- Kilternan Legacy (1975), romantic novel set in Ireland
-- Stich in Snow (1984), suspense/romance novel
-- The Year of the Lucy (1986), mainstream romantic novel
-- The Lady (1987, UK title The Carradyne Touch), mainstream novel set in Ireland
-- Three Women (1990), omnibus of The Mark of Merlin, Ring of Fear, and Kilternan Legacy

Edited by Anne McCaffrey
-- Alchemy and Academe (1970), 20 short stories
-- Space Opera (1996, with Elizabeth Ann Scarborough), 20 short stories

Aaron's review of Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey on Fantastic Reviews
Aaron's review of Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey on Fantastic Reviews
The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey - official site
Locus Online: Anne McCaffrey interview excerpts (2004)
Anne McCaffrey - Wikipedia
Sariel's Guide to Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern Books

Home Page - Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

This page was last updated November 20, 2008