Tag Archives: fantasy

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

Book Name: A Wizard of Earthsea
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
First Published: 1968

Born in 1929 in Berkeley, California of an anthropologist father and writer mother, Ursula K. Le Guin was exposed at an early age to the life of academia, the art of writing and to the concepts of anthropology. Her father established a department of anthropology at UC Berkeley and her mother wrote her husband’s biography. Le Guin attended Berkeley High School and went on to gain her B.A. from Radcliffe College in 1951. She went on to receive her M.A. from Columbia University.

In 1953, Ursula Kroeber married historian Charles A. Le Guin. They had three children together and four grandchildren. Currently, they reside in Oregon.

Le Guin became interested in literature as a child. She submitted her first short story to Astounding Science Fiction at the tender age of eleven years. It was rejected, but this did not deter her desire to become a writer. She moved to a new genre, that of stories set in imaginary countries, but without the fantastic elements of her early attempts. In time, she grew tired of this genre and returned to her first interest in science fiction and fantasy.

In 1967, Herman Schein, the publisher of Parnassus Press and husband to Ruth Robbins, the woman who would later illustrate the book, asked Le Guin if she would consider writing a book “for older kids”, leaving the concept and subject free of her own choosing. A Wizard of Earthsea followed the next year and was published by Parnassus Press. Le Guin based the novel on a pair of short stories she had published in 1964, The Rule of Names and The Word of Unbinding. In these short stories, she explored the concept that wizards were always portrayed as old and wise figures in literature. The author wondered where the wizards might have learned their magic before they gained their wisdom. These two stories served as the groundwork for the Earthsea trilogy that would follow.

Locus has ranked A Wizard of Earthsea as the third choice among a list of thirty three titles as All-Time Best Fantasy Novels, based on a poll of their subscribers. The Earthsea Cycle has won many literary awards, including:

1968 Boston Globe-Horn Book award for A Wizard of Earthsea
1972 Newbery Silver Medal Award for The Tombs of Atuan
1972 National Book Award for Children’s Books for The Farthest Shore
1979 Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for A Wizard of Earthsea
2002 Locus Readers Awards: Tales from Earthsea, “The Finder”
2002 Locus Readers Awards: Tales from Earthsea, “The Bones of the Earth”
2003 Endeavor Award: Tales from Earthsea

Ursula K. Le Guin has won many more awards for her writing, and I do not doubt that more are due in her future. Her awards are simply too numerous to list in a simple blog post.

A Wizard of Earthsea is the first novel in the Earthsea Cycle series. It is a poetic fantasy that has the feeling of an epic, but is only around 200 pages in length. Earthsea is a series of island nations that exist on small archipelago islands in a vast ocean. The culture is agrarian and weapons are of the iron age, supplemented by the use of magic. Wizardry is the art of learning the true names of things and by knowing the name of a thing, you gain mastery over it. The people of Earthsea are careful to only reveal their true names to those that they can trust.

The novel follows the story of a young wizard, known as Ged. The boy is raised by a well meaning witch, who has recognized the magical power within him, and his father the blacksmith. When their island home is attacked by a marauding army, young Ged uses his limited training to control a mist to confound the army and saves his people. This action brings him to the attention of a powerful wizard named Ogion. The wizard tells Ged his true name, Sparrowhawk. He offers to apprentice the eager Ged in the arts of magic, but once they undertake the training, Ged is frustrated because Ogion is more concerned with teaching Ged wisdom instead of magic.

Ged is given the opportunity to attend the main wizard school on the island of Roke. Once Ged arrives, he learns quickly, but the young wizard is also arrogant and impatient, he gets into a pissing match with a rival young wizard named Jasper and thus makes the mistake of summoning the dead.

Thus begins a journey across Earthsea where Ged battles dragons, fights villagers and ultimately learns to switch from being the hunted to becoming the hunter. Just what is this shadow that he has unleashed? How can he learn its true name and gain control over it once and for all? For this young, impatient wizard, it is the ultimate challenge.

I have a great deal of nostalgia for the Earthsea Cycle. I was one of those kids that hung out at the public library instead of playing sports or joining in group activities. A Wizard of Earthsea was one of the books that I discovered in the YA section of the library. This novel was my first introduction to Ursula K. Le Guin as an author and I have gone on to read most of her novels. She has been an influence over me as an author.

Back then, there were only the first three books. Of the three, I believe that The Tombs of Atuan was my favorite of the original trilogy. To this day, I still can feel the character Tenar, a young priestess, exploring the underground tunnels of her people’s temple. It is a hidden place that only she is allow to go. She travels in the darkness, not aware of all the treasures that stud the tunnel walls because of her obedience to how the priestess’ taught her. It is only when Sparrowhawk bids her to question her existence that she sees all the wonder around her. He helps her find herself. Allegories like this is what makes Earthsea rich as a series.

Another aspect of the stories that I remember clearly is the moment when I figured out that Sparrowhawk was a young man of color, not a white man, as many heroes in fantasy novels are. As a teenager, I remember being flabbergasted by this fact, pausing to reread to make sure that what I saw on the page was actually there, and then I was delighted. This was not a common occurrence in fantasy books at the time. LeGuin was breaking new ground.

There seems to be a disconnect to Earthsea by the younger readers of today. Earthsea is not written as a novelized movie. It is not purely visual as we are growing used to in our novels today. It is a literary adventure with a depth of thought that requires the reader to ponder about the ethics of what the characters do and the price they pay for a moment of youthful folly. These are ideas that I feel are well worth exposing to young readers in our pop culture of instant gratification.

I hope you’ll give The Earthsea Cycle consideration in your reading list and that you check out Ursula K. LeGuin’s work in general. She is truly a national treasure.

A Wizard of Earthsea Book CoverThe Earthsea Cycle:

A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968 (named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list in 1979)
The Tombs of Atuan, 1971 (Newbery runner-up)
The Farthest Shore, 1972 (National Book Award)
Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea, 1990 (Nebula Award and Locus Fantasy Award)
Tales from Earthsea, 2001 (short stories)
The Other Wind, 2001 (World Fantasy Award, 2002)

Book Review: The Bloody Sun

Book Name: The Bloody Sun
Author: Marion Zimmer Bradley
First Published: 1964/1979

Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley was an American author of fantasy novels such as The Mists of Avalon and the Darkover series, often writing with a feminist outlook and even, under a pen name, gay and lesbian titles. She was born on a farm in Albany, New York, during the Great Depression, to a father who was a carpenter and farmer and a mother who was a historian. Bradley first attended New York State College for Teachers from which she dropped out after two years. She returned to college in the mid-sixties, where she graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas with a Bachelor of Arts. Bradley moved to California soon after and went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of California, Berkely. She trained not only as a psychologist but also as a parapsychologist. In the end, she became a drop-out once more from not one, but three departments of education, “owing to deep disillusion”. Bradley also trained as a singer, and at one time, in her younger days, worked as a target for a knife thrower in a carnival.

Married twice, both of Bradley’s unions ended in divorce. Her first marriage to Robert Bradley in 1949 lasted fourteen years and they had one son together. Her second marriage to author Walter Breen in 1964 resulted in a son and a daughter, but ended badly in 1990. She had been separated from him for many years before the divorce was finalized.

During the 1950s, as a young wife with a small son, she became involved in the phenomenon known as science fiction fandom, writing for a variety of fanzines for nothing, but in time moved up to sell to professional science fiction digest magazines. It was here that she gained her writing chops and moved on to create novels of her own, becoming a professional full-time writer and editor by the early 1960s. Her main novel series featured a sword and sorcery themed world known as Darkover, but she also wrote short stories, articles and books in other subjects.

As an author, Bradley continued with an active role in science fiction and fantasy fandom. There were regular Darkover conventions in the 70s and 80s organized by the “Friends of Darkover” to which she was the star. Bradley was baffled by this popularity; she once made the observation: “I am perpetually surprised that I can make money at [writing], and people seem to like what I write.” She encouraged fan fiction based on her own popular Darkover novels and reprinted the stories in commercial anthologies. All this came to an end after a dispute with a fan. After the legal dust cleared, Bradley’s novel remained unpublished and she demanded the cessation of all Darkover fan fiction from that day forward.

Bradley also edited a Sword and Sorceress anthology series, which featured non-traditional heroines from new and up and coming female writers. It was here that she discovered her protegee Deborah J. Ross, who continues to write Darkover novels in the present day as well as her own creations. Bradley was editing the final Sword and Sorceress manuscript when she died in September of 1999. The year after her death, Marion Zimmer Bradley was posthumously awarded the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

As an author, her most popular novel is The Mists of Avalon which was later made into a major motion picture starring Angelica Houston. The book is a retelling of the Camelot legend from the viewpoint of the female characters, mainly Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar. As in her Darkover series, the later Avalon novels are written with or by other authors and have continued to appear after Bradley’s death.

Darkover is a planet that was colonized by people of the Terran Empire, but was lost to the Empire due to a crash landing. The survivors interbred with the native Chieri who have psychic powers and this merging of the two species create the future rulers of the world, known as the Comyn. This ruling class is known for their red hair and for possessing strong psychic talents that they call Laren. The Comyn create a magical appearing technology based on their laren talents, amplified by the use of starstones, and create a breeding program to promote those characteristics in their ruling class.

The Bloody Sun is not the first novel of this vast series chronologically, but it is the first novel set in what is known as The Second Age of the Terran/Darkovan contact. This is a time when the Terran Empire has rediscovered the lost colony they know as Cottman IV are are attempting to reintegrate it with the Empire. The Comyn rulers resist this and thus have restricted the empire to remain to the Terran Zone while on their world. This is to prevent Terran customs and technology from infiltrating their world and disrupting their people.

The story follows a young orphan named Jeff Kerwin who was born on Darkover, but sent to Terra at the age of twelve. He never forgot the planet of his birth and as he worked in the Terran Service, he finds an opportunity to transfer back to Cottman IV. Jeff attempts to learn more about his heritage on Darkover, but is surprised to learn that the orphanage that he remembers has no record of him having lived there. Jeff does not accept this information and follows a voice in his mind that eventually leads him out of the Terran Zone and into Darkovan culture. He suffers culture shock, and as Jeff learns more about Darkovan culture, we the readers are also introduced into this strange new world of what appears to be run by magic and the power of feudal swords. Due to his bright red hair, the mark of a Comyn telepath, he eventually finds his way to the Tower of Arilinn. A Tower is where the major telepathic work on Darkover is performed. Jeff finds a sense of home at Arilinn that he has never felt before. This is the first book of the series that introduces the inner workings of a Darkovan Tower and we get to see in full detail what the Tower Technicians do and what matrix work really is. In other Darkovan books, the workings of a Tower are hinted at and spoken of by characters, but this is the first time we see it in action. Jeff Kerwin learns that he is not a Terran as he thought as he grew up, but he is truly a Darkover Comyn with the full telephatic powers that this title and position conveys. He finds love, a sense of family, and that he has a major role to play in the shaping of the future of his planet, Darkover.

This was the first Marion Zimmer Bradley novel that I read and the first of her Darkover novels. I read the original 1964 version in the early 1970s, and later read the rewrite she did of the book in 1979. Will say that I liked both versions. While the rewrite is a more powerful novel with more detail, the original had a fresh pacing that drew me into this world and made me want to read the rest of the numerous books set in this universe. I don’t believe that the original version is readily available any longer, but I still consider The Bloody Sun to be the best introduction novel into the Darkover universe. It is also the best read of the series overall whichever version you happen to buy.

The Bloody Sun Book CoverAfter the Comyn (Against the Terrans: The Second Age) Series

The Bloody Sun (1979) rewrite of and replacement of The Bloody Sun (1964)
The Heritage of Hastur (1975)
The Planet Savers (1962)
Sharra’s Exile (1981) rewrite of and official replacement of The Sword of Aldones (1962)
The World Wreckers (1971)
Hastur Lord (2010 – written by Deborah J. Ross)
Exile’s Song (1996 – with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
The Shadow Matrix (1998 – with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)
Traitor’s Sun (1999 – with Adrienne Martine-Barnes)

Author Interview: Marcy L Peska

Fantasy writers come from all walks of life, but Marcy is a true woman of the wilderness, a lady from the great northern State of Alaska. I am pleased to feature her here on No Wasted Ink.

Marcy L Peska - AuthorI’m Marcy L. Peska, a dog-loving, rain-preferring bibliophile. I live with my husband, our four-footed child Jeb and our housemate. I’ve spent most of my life in Southeast Alaska which is part of the Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rainforest in existence today. I had a unique childhood growing up transient, on boats and in bush Alaska but today I have deep roots in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, and enjoy modern conveniences like hot and cold running water, flushing toilets and electricity. My employment history has mostly included working in non-profit human services and I remain passionate about mental health and disability rights.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing fiction as a pre-teen because I loved reading, felt I had some talent for writing and needed an outlet to cope with life stressors. I began writing with the explicit intent to publish about two years ago when I first became aware of the self-publishing movement.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Ooooh, a semantics question! I’ve considered myself a writer since I was about twelve because…I wrote, I enjoyed writing and because I knew that someday I would be a fantasy author. I began considering myself an author about 14 months ago when I began writing my novel, Magic All Around.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Meet Vivian Marshall, an introverted artist from Juneau, Alaska. Painting, cooking, hot baths, and quiet evenings make Vivian happy. Neighbors with poor boundaries, her mom’s coven-style living arrangement, and dogs make her unhappy. When Vivian moves into a new apartment, she finds her sensible life turned topsy-turvy by dogs, a pony-tailed landlord and an inconvenient prophesy. Vivian is about to learn that there is magic all around!

What inspired you to write this book?

You know that not-quite-asleep feeling you get when you’re in stage one sleep? I often have vivid daydreams/lucid dreams in this phase and one night cracked myself up imagining an adolescent were-dog who gets himself in trouble by pissing on the Christmas tree at his mom’s holiday party. The more I thought about it, the more charmed I became by this paranormal faux pas and, ultimately, I built one of my main characters around this kernel of action. It doesn’t turn out to be a crucial plot point in the novel, but it was the original inspiration.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I have two writing styles. I mentioned that I’ve worked in human services and that’s where I honed my formal writing style. I’ve written hundreds of assessments, treatment plans and service delivery notes that reflected a person-centered approach while also meeting Medicaid guidelines for clear and measurable goals, objectives and interventions. My other style, the style I use in my novel, in my blog and during interviews like this, is less formal and more closely resembles my day-to-day speech and the sound of my mental voice. This style is colored by years of reading and by my early exposure to the rough and rowdy crowd of folks who lived on the docks in the 70’s and the fishing/subsistence lifestyle my family led in the 80’s.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

I played with several titles during the first few months of writing but kept coming back to this one. It’s part of a speech that one of my characters makes and it has layers of meaning for me, not just reflecting the outright magic in the story, but also a life philosophy.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There are messages in my novel about relationships, self determination, mental health and more. That’s as much detail as I want to give though, because I hope that my messages are complex enough that each reader will add her own spin and take away the message most suited to her.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

As a fantasy novel, this book is fictional and the plot doesn’t represent anything from real life. On the other hand, Magic All Around is set here in Juneau, Alaska and I want readers taste a bit of authentic, local flavor.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

There’s a long list. Robert Service, Richard Bach, J.R.R. Tolkein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, Mercedes Lackey, Oliver Sacks, Marsha Linehan, Deborah Tannen, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Daniel Quinn…I could probably list a hundred authors here. I like to be transported when I read but also want to return with some bit of knowledge or wisdom that I can fit into the grand jigsaw puzzle of life and that duality is what inspires me.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?

Debora Geary is a tremendous inspiration. She writes fantasy that focuses on community building and personal transformation and her novels leave me eager to make the world a better place. She is also incredibly accessible to her fans, through e-mail and FaceBook. She is genuinely kind and, along with her fans, supports several great causes.

I don’t think mentor is quite the right word here because it conveys a level of intensity and intentionality in the relationship that isn’t representative of my interactions with Ms. Geary but I can honestly say that she is my social media model.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I selected my cover designer for her enthusiasm and affordability! I created my own cover and wouldn’t have it any other way. I had a lot of fun playing with colors and images and went through about 10 possible covers before I settled on this one. I also enjoyed creating the icons and visuals for my web site. This is one of the best parts of being an indy author; creating the whole package and getting everything entirely my own way.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes, don’t worry too much about following writing advice! The only thing other writers can tell you is what works for them. Figure out what works for you and don’t be surprised when it’s different from what works for other folks. There’s room in this world for a lot of diversity and creativity.

Magic All Around Book CoverMarcy L. Peska
Juneau, Alaska

Magic All Around

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Book Review: The Blue Sword

Book Name: The Blue Sword
Author: Robin McKinley
First Published: 1982
Winner: Newbery Honor Book(1983)

Robin McKinley was born in Warren, Ohio. Her father was an officer in the United States Navy and her mother was a school teacher. Like many military families, The McKinleys’ moved quite often as her father was reassigned to various posts. This gave their daughter exposure to many areas of the United States including California, New York, Maine and even a time living in Japan. McKinley went to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and finished her education at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine where she graduated summa cum laude in 1975.

After college, she remained in Maine for many years working as a research assistant and later at a local bookstore. It was during this time that she completed her first novel, Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. The work was named an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

The author currently lives in Hampshire, England with her husband, author Peter Dickinson. They have no children together, but their family includes two children from a previous relationship of her husband. McKinley is known for her “obsessions” which include learning to play the piano, horseback riding, gardening, cooking and, interestingly enough, bell ringing.

Robin McKinley describes herself as a “scribe” and “Damar’s Historian” because she feels that the stories are told her to by the characters and she is simply writing them down. The Damar stories, of which The Blue Sword is the first to be written, have been occurring to her since before she began her first novel. As an author, she is known to write stories with strong heroines that reflect qualities that she saw in herself as a youth; clumsiness, bookishness and a particular disinterest in the usual social flirting and dating that is commonly found in the typical female. She likes her women to be out doing things and having adventures, much as their male counterparts would be, a modern sensibility that is more common today than back in the 1980s when the Damar books were originally written. McKinley’s heroines do not simper, they display ideals of faithfulness, duty and honor.

The Blue Sword begins when Angharad Crewe, nicknamed Harry, becomes orphaned when her nobleman father passes away. She is a citizen of a proto-British kingdom known as “Homeland”. Being a young woman in need of a protector, Harry is sent across the ocean to join her elder brother Richard in the nation of Istan, a remote colonial town and military outpost in the Royal Province of Daria. Harry is a shy and awkward girl that is more interested in horses than in flirting with the young soldiers in the outpost. Soon after her arrival, the outpost receives a visit from Corlath, the king of the native hill-folk who still regard the province as their own. Corlath has come to warn the “outlanders” of an invasion from the demon people of the North, but his warnings fall on deaf ears.

Corlath has a magic of his own, called “kelar”, that only runs in the royal bloodline. It shows him a prophecy that the shy young outlander woman he has noticed has an importance to his people and that she must be taken to them. Corlath is embarrassed by the act, but he and his men kidnap Harry and take her away with them when they return to the hills.

Harry’s fear at being abducted gives way to wonder when she discovers that she also has strong kelar of her own. As she lives among Corlath’s people as an honored guest, she learns the language and customs of the Damarians from her mentor Mathin and from the king. Soon she adopts their dress and learns to ride their beautiful horses in Damarian style. She becomes known to the people as Harimad.

During an evening fire, the legendary heroine, Lady Aerin, visits the people as a spirit and favors Harry. Based on this vision, Corlath decides that Harry with enter the Laprun trials, an annual competition for the right to be a King’s Rider. Mathin teaches Harry to fight and ride like a Damarian warrior, preparing her for the trials. In the end, she wins first place, becoming the Laprun-minta. The hill people of Damar see this as a good omen because there have been few female riders since the age of Aerin. Harry becomes known as the Damalur-sol, or lady hero. In recognition of this, Corlath gives her a blue sword named Gonturan that had belonged to the ancient Lady Aerin, the dragonslayer.

At first, Harry is bemused by all the honors heaped on her, but gradually she realizes that the inpending danger from the demon people of the North is growing closer and that Corlath will do nothing to protect the Homeland people of the outpost. She becomes torn between her old loyalty to her former people and the new found love she has for Damar. She realizes that the Homelanders will have a better chance to defend the pass into their area if they are fore-warned. Despite Corlath’s orders, she races off to warn the Homelanders.

After meeting with the Homelanders, Harry gains a small army of her own composed of both Damarian and Homelanders. Together they make a stand at the pass, expecting only a small part of the Northern army to come through. Instead, they discover that a major part of the army is present and that this pass was determined to be a breach in Darmarian defenses. Harry calls on the power of kelar and falls into a trance. She climbs the mountain and calls for help. Lady Aerin answers her call and Gonturan responds by throwing off sparks of blue light that causes the mountainside to shear off and break away upon the invading army below.

Harry becomes the hero of the day, the savior of Damar. But what of her disobeying the King’s orders and of his disapproval of joining with the Homelanders in battle? Even a hero has to face the music in the end.

The Blue Sword Book CoverI discovered this book the year that it was first published in my local bookstore and purchased it new. The novel intrigued me because back in the early eighties, there were not many books that featured strong women who stood on their own and had adventures. I found young Harimad-sol to be identifiable and likable. It was a story that featured big cats, horses from the dreams of Alec Ramsey, enchanted swords and true love. What was there not to love? This novel has become a favorite of mine and I’ve read it many times down through the years. Do yourself a favor, read The Blue Sword and its prequel The Hero and the Crown. You will not be disappointed.

Book Review: The White Dragon

Book Name: The White Dragon
Author: Anne McCaffery
First Published: 1978

Anne McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The only daughter of three siblings and the middle child, she grew up on the east coast of the United States. Eventually, she graduated cum laude from College where she gained a degree in Slavonic Languages and Literature. In 1950 she married Horace Johnson and they had three children: Alec, Todd and Gigi. The family lived in Wilmington, Delaware for around a decade and then moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island in 1965 where they remained until 1970. During this time, Anne McCaffrey began to work full time as a writer and served a term as the secretary-treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Her duties not only included the publishing of two monthly newsletters for the guild, but she also handcrafted the Nebula Award trophies.

In 1970, McCaffrey divorced her husband and weeks later took her children to live in Ireland. During the 1970s, Ireland offered artists to live exempted from income taxes and Anne McCaffrey, being of Irish descent, emigrated to Ireland to take advantage of this opportunity. Anne’s mother soon joined the family where they stayed in Dublin. It was the following spring where she met British reproductive biologist Jack Cohen, at a science fiction convention where she was the guest of honor, and together they worked on the biological mechanics of what would later become her famous Pernese dragons.

The author finished writing the first two novels of the original Pern trilogy and had a contract for the third book, The White Dragon, when she experienced writer’s block for several years. She and her family moved around the Dublin area many times as she attempted to support herself on alimony and scant royalties from her writing. The breakthrough came when a call for stories to be published in an anthology prompted her to write a pern based story about Menolly, a young female musician who discovers miniature dragons, known as firelizards. This story eventually became the start of her young adult Harper Hall trilogy. The White Dragon was completed seven years after the first two books of the original trilogy were published and the Harper Hall trilogy followed a year later. All of them were huge successes.

The royalties from these books enabled Anne McCaffery to buy her home in Ireland, which she named “Dragonhold” after the dragons that helped her purchase it. Twenty years later, her son Todd wrote that she “first set dragons free on Pern, and then was herself freed by her dragons.” Anne McCaffery lived in Dragonhold until she died of a stroke at the age of eighty-five.

Anne McCaffrey’s most famous novels are the Dragonriders of Pern series. The stories are set on a planet known as Pern that was settled by colonists from Earth in the far future. Due to a biological threat from a nearby planet that had gone unnoticed before the colonists had settled on Pern, the Terrans regress into a feudal style society as the alien “thread” destroys much of their world. Before the total loss of their space faring technology, the colonists create a biological wonder from the tiny native “firelizards” that live on the planet. These winged lizards have the ability to breath fire after eating a certain coal like fuel and could communicate telepathically with the humans they had bonded with at their hatching time. The colonists genetically grew these firelizards into a size that a man could ride and thus create a renewable “air force” to protect their people while the “thread” from the sister world, called the “red star”, rained down from the skies. As the centuries pass, two culture emerge on Pern. The holders, who live in lowland feudal societies led by the Lord Holders and the dragonriders who live in volcanic “weyrs” nurturing and fighting with the now intelligent “dragons”. The dragonriders of Pern are duty bound to fly and fight the “thread” when it falls every 250 years, incinerating it in the sky before it can touch the earth.

The third novel of the series is The White Dragon. It follows the coming of age story of Jaxom, the Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold which lies under the protection of Benden Weyr. Complications arise when Jaxom accidentally impresses a mutant dragon. The dragon is white, instead of conforming to one of the five normal colors a Pernese dragon might be, and is a runt. Not having a color to define its place in the dragon fighting ranks and since it is thought that the white dragon might die early due to its mutation, Jaxom is sent back to Ruatha Hold with the dragon Ruth to wait its death, and to return to his duties as the future Lord Holder of Ruatha Hold. Jaxom is not pleased, as a rebellious teenager he wishes to fight thread as a dragonrider, a far more exciting prospect than managing a large Hold.

Ruth does not die, and flourishes under Jaxom’s care. The young Lord Holder finds that Ruth has abilities and intelligence not found in regular dragons. Jaxom fights for his right to fight thread and for his Ruth to be accepted as a regular dragon. The Benden Weyrleaders consent to allow Jaxom and Ruth to join the fighting ranks of the weyr’s dragons on a visiting basis.

After battling thread, Jaxom falls ill with a deadly illness brought on by teleporting on his dragon while wet and he and the white dragon are sent to the Southern Continent to recuperate. While there, Jaxom and Ruth find an old settlement that the ancient Pernese have left behind. Ruth’s special abilities in teleportation and time travel come into play as they learn more about Pern’s ancient past and how the Pernese might permanently remove the threat of thread from their skies for all time.

Of the first three novels in the series, The White Dragon is my favorite. I remember as a young teen, waiting for it to come out in my local bookstore and saving my pennies in order to purchase the book. I was not disappointed. Many of the themes that Anne McCaffery developed in her first two novels mature in this one. The dragons take on a new life of their own and become far more interesting as characters instead of being backdrops of the humans who ride them. While you should likely read the books in chronological order, you could start with The White Dragon as a stand alone book and be very entertained. The book is still in print in its original Micheal Whelan cover, which is famous as being a launching point in this illustrator’s career as this novel was for the author’s as well.

The White Dragon Book CoverThe Dragonriders of Pern Series:

Dragonflight
Dragonquest
The White Dragon
Dragonsong
Dragonsinger
Dragondrums
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
Nerilka’s Story
Dragonsdawn
Renegades of Pern
All the Weyrs of Pern
The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall
The Dolphins of Pern
Dragonseye
The Masterharper of Pern
The Skies of Pern
A Gift of Dragons
Dragon’s Kin
Dragon’s Fire
Dragon Harper
Dragon’s Time