(2007) Anne and Todd McCaffrey, Bantam Press, £17.99, hrdbk, 299 pp, ISBN 978-0-593-05528-1
This story, continuing on from Dragon's Fire, continues to tell the story of Kindan, the young Harper apprentice boy who was once a Hold's watch-wher trainer.
It starts with a prologue featuring J'lantir, an Ista Weyr wingleader reaming out his wing because they have been missing for an entire sevenday ( a week) and won't tell him where they have been. Most Pern fans, when reading over the appearance of the dragons and riders, will quickly work out that the question is not so much where they have been as when.
Then the scene changes to a Hatching, one at which both Kindan and the miner Cristov are Candidates. Cristov and Kindan used to be enemies but later came to respect each other. The hatching is a mixture of joy and sorrow: Cristov impresses a bronze, Kindan does not impress at all, but a dampener is put on the while proceedings when the aged Weyrwoman dies and her equally old Queen goes between.
Kindan goes back to the Harper Hall, and is given charge of two fire-lizard eggs, one of which he is told is his. One of the younger apprentices falls ill with a cough and has to be admitted to the Infirmary. Kindan makes an enemy of another apprentice who implies that one of the girl's honour may be compromised. Kindan responds to the slur on his friend by demanding the boy apologise. He refuses, so Kindan suggests the apprentice would take a woman against her will. The apprentice demands the right to duel Kindan using bladed weapons, and Kindan accepts his challenge.
Because the other apprentice is bigger and handier with a sword than Kindan, Kindan is sent back to Aleesa, who keeps the wherqueen, to learn to fight. He ends up defeating the larger apprentice, who is told to serve him.
When the fire-lizard eggs hatch, Kindan helps the holder's daughter Koriana, to Impress a queen, Kindan himself impresses a bronze, but he also falls in love with Koriana, but the Holders don't see him as a suitable match.
Kindan starts getting his growth spurt, which makes him clumsy, and this gets him into trouble with his tutors and his friends, although soon Kindan had far more to worry about when sickness starts to affect all, Harper and Holder alike, a sickness that the old remedies have little effect on, and in contrast to most normal sicknesses, strikes those in their prime the hardest, and has a high mortality rate...
I found this story a little more difficult to read than some, and at first it moved very slowly. However, halfway through it began to get very exciting and was hard to put. However it is not a book I would recommend to a first-time Pern reader as such is the complexity of the back-story, but conversely I can heartily recommend to a seasoned Pern fan. Anne and Todd McCaffrey use historical fact to weave a tale of Pern which has familiar scenarios and characters as well as brand new ones, and brought together in a somewhat emotional mix.
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