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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Monday, January 19, 2004

Dragon's Kin by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey. New York: Del Rey, 2003. ISBN: 0345461983

A new Pern novel is always a cause for celebration, and this one is no exception. The first of the "Dragonriders of Pern" novels was Dragonflight, published in 1968, and the series has continued since then to be one of the most prolific and successful of any science fiction series ever.

In Dragon's Kin, the traditional dragons of Pern carry only a peripheral role. The focus is, instead, on the lowly watch-wher, genetically related to the magnificent dragons, but traditionally assigned a much more mundane role, and not highly regarded as are the sentient dragons.

Just how intelligent is a watch-wher? And what was their intended role by the original settlers who genetically altered the indigenous fire lizards to produce not only the dragons, but also, apparently, the watch-wher? What hidden and unsuspected virtues and talents do they have? This book begins to explore these questions.

In this novel, Anne McCaffrey is apparently beginning the process of handing over the Pern legacy to her son Todd. Previously the author of Dragonholder, a biographical work about his mother, Todd has a solo Pern novel, Dragonsblood, in the works, presumably to be released in the not-too-distant future.

I do have to say that this story, while entertainingly written, is not up to the level of the earliest Pern stories. The vein has been worked so long, it seems inevitable that the richest ore has already been mined out. It will be interesting to see if Todd can revive the former luster, but if this novel is an example of his work, it doesn't seem too likely.

As an example of the problems with Dragon's Kin, a significant portion of the storyline revolves around Nuella, the chief miner's blind daughter, whose very existence is kept secret from the entire community. That a teen-age girl's existence can have been kept secret for this long strains credulity, and the rationale behind it is weak. The book would have been better off without this plot element. It only weakens the story, and adds nothing much to it. It actually detracts from the main storyline, namely the story of Kindan, the plucky miner boy, who after losing most of his family, raises a watch-wher and spearheads the efforts to discover its capabilities.

Nevertheless, all fans of Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern" series will want to read this book, and they should. For those who are new to the series, you should probably go back to the beginning and read them in the order suggested by the author.

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