Dragon’s Time: Dragonriders of Pern

Dragon’s Time: Dragonriders of Pern. Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey. 352 pp., $26.00 (hardcover). New York: Ballantine, 2011.

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Reviewed by Daniel Baird

[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 49:3 (#356) in March 2012.]

This book is the third of a trilogy featuring the protagonist Fiona (the other two books are Dragonheart [2008] and Dragongirl [2010]). Thus one must have read the two earlier books in order to understand the plot of this one. I frankly recommend reading all of Todd McCaffrey’s earlier books as well since events in this book are in many ways a consequence of earlier story arcs.

Like Todd’s other books this one is set in the beginning of Third pass of threadfall some 2000 years before the events of Anne McCaffrey’s earliest published books on Pern (set during the 9th pass). Sickness has devastated the dragon weyrs killing a large number of dragons — how will the remaining dragonriders of Pern protect people and their holds from the killing thread that falls from the skies? Fiona, rider of the gold queen dragon Talenth, leads the cast of characters in grappling with this problem that has the potential to wipe out the entire planetary colony.

Fans of the McCaffreys know that their books lean more to sci-fi rather than the fantasy genre, especially in the later books by Anne. Todd continues in his books to providing scientific explanations for the “dragons” and other phenomena. Anne used biology and other sciences; Todd additionally brings in knowledge of aerodynamics to his descriptions of dragonflight and the sensations experienced by their riders. Yet by far what gives the sci-fi “feel” to this trilogy is time travel. Readers of Anne’s books will be familiar with the basics for time travel via dragon; to those who are new to the Pern books I will not spoil the fun except to give some general comments.

Throughout the books, especially in this last one the McCaffreys provide explanations as to how time travel works, both in general and for the dragons specifically. If you are a hardcore sci-fi time travel genre fan beware: the explanation is extremely simplistic. For example, they eliminate the possibility of multiple time lines. Not that such necessarily makes for a poor plot, but the authors do seem to work hard to simplify time travel to the point that unfortunately much of what occurs in this book I had already guessed, taking away the “oh that’s cool!” moments that one usually associates with time travel. (On a side note, if you do like time conundrums then may I suggest the anime, Steins;Gate, warning: it will play with your mind!)

What Dragon’s Time does well is to answer the many questions raised throughout the entire series of Pern books written by Todd as well as provide an emotionally satisfying ending to this trilogy. Of course this book continues to delight any reader that fantasizes about being able to not only ride a dragon but have a telepathic winged-friend for life. The trilogy as a whole does well in presenting the character Fiona as she develops from a rambunctious child to a mature leader of a weyr. Other important characters develop as well, such as Xhinna, a friend of Fiona and perhaps the most tragic character due to the effects of time travel, another friend of Fiona, Terin and her lover F’jian, and the seer Tenniz. Todd also brings in several favorite characters from his earlier books such as Lorana, rider of the gold dragon Arith, and the Harper Kindan. Nor are these protagonists from earlier books limited to cameos, but rather are skillfully woven into plot making them both important and rounded characters. Some news to end with, Anne and Todd worked together on a new book, Sky Dragons, forthcoming in June of this year. The character Xhinna will be the protagonist. We miss you Anne!

Dragon’s Time: Dragonriders of Pern. Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey. 352 pp., $26.00 (hardcover). New York: Ballantine, 2011.

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