The second novel set in Anne McCaffrey’s world of Pern, titled Dragonquest, is a more complex and developed novel than it’s predecessor Dragonflight. Featuring the returning main characters F’lar and Lessa, a better cast of secondary personalities helps prop up the bland and too perfect protagonists.  With secondary tales enveloped in the larger storyline, McCaffrey allows her story to wander in ways that make it feel less constrained than the first novel.

The worldbuilding remains the strong suit of the novel. The return of the inimical, naturally occurring “thread” that will destroy organic material provides an ever-present sense of danger and purpose for the characters. It’s impossible to separate the story and the character’s actions from the world that they live in requiring the reader to immerse themselves in an unfamiliar setting. When the book succeeds, it is captivating. When it fails, the characters suffer appearing detached or unrelatable.

The general plot is an extension of the first novel. Lessa has brought forward hundreds of dragonriders from the past, transported through time by their dragons, in order to deal with the “thread”. Jumping 400 years into the future, the culture shock is readily apparent. Modern society has largely grown in the absence of the the thread from the thread, they were absent for 400 years, and has become both less respectful and less subservient to the dragonriders who once protected them. Adjustments do not come easily to the old-timers and in many cases they do not come at all.  The class between old and new

F’lar and Lessa are forced take charge and they do so with a flawless righteousness. The focal point of much of the novel, these two are absurdly one dimensional. Lessa is supposed to have a temper but it is seemingly always in check or only evident when completely justified. F’lar is tall, handsome, well built, intelligent, dutiful and utterly boring. Thankfully, others are more imperfect. The master craftsman drink more than they should at times. The younger characters can be impetuous. Other modern dragonriders are vain, promiscuous and self-serving. In short, they feel normal and believable in ways that F’lar and Lessa do not.  Jaxom, the future lord of a major holding, is also introduced. While he plays the predominant role in the third novel, the boyish exuberance and naive decision making are endearing while preparing the character for future growth.

The pacing of the book is solid. It is a longer novel than the first but less constrained in its storytelling.  There is little doubt, however, in how the novel will resolve the quandry of the plot. The societal commentary is both subtler and less frequent than the first novel allowing the plot to stand on its own merits and not be overwhelmed by preaching or metaphorical lessons.

If you liked Dragonflight, or at least managed to suffer through it, Dragonquest is a more fulfilling realization of the author’s original intent. The tiresome perfection of the main characters prevents this book from capitalizing on an improved plot and supporting cast.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

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