So… Anne McCaffery’s “Dragonriders of Pern”. A famous series, particularly among those interested in
dragons, and one that’s been on my to-do list for a long time – because, as a writer of fantasy (well, cyberpunk) fiction involving dragons, it’s required reading.
I picked up the first book, “Dragonflight”, quite recently – it featured some gorgeous cover art pleasantly reminiscent of the work done on “Dragon Tamers 2: Digital Tempest”, and at first, I really enjoyed it. But in hindsight, there are sections of it that bother me…
It’s hard to explain my impressions of this book – perhaps it’s still too soon after reading it, but I’ll do my best.
‘Dragonflight’ does deserves its place as a fantasy staple – it’s well-written, for the most part, with a detailed world and brilliant effort put into grounding it’s main fantasy element – the dragons, which are all given personality as well as form, with their eating habits to their methods for firebreathing all rendered it satisfying detail.
The time it’s set, however, is not so clear – we’ve got a near-medieval world where important technology has been ‘forgotten’, but with telepathic dragons, extraterrestrial threats and time travel. Executed well, it could have been great – and the time-travel was a nice step up from the slow-moving first half of the book – but it wasnt really touched on, let alone explain, and too much thinking in to the situation tends to unravel the setting piece by piece.
So, where does it go wrong?
It starts with the main female character, Lessa. She starts out fantastic – strong-willed, ambitious, and delightfully dark-natured, and continues lie this, in part, for most of the book. But as it progresses and her relationship with the male protagonist happens, she seems to do a complete u-turn – not only does she let what’s described, in plain words, as rape by him pass with only the odd bit of snark, but she’s left helpless by his constant, rough shaking whenever she does the wrong thing.
She’s lead in a complete u-turn into some meek, abused housewife – and when you loo at Anne’s author bio, where she’s said to have started writing to protest ‘unrealistic portrayals of women’, well…
I’m not a feminist, just smart enough to realise when abuse is clearly portrayed, nor am I a hater. I liked the book, and I’d still recommend the novel to fantasy fans. I’ll even be reading it’s sequels – though partly, this will be in the hope it gets better.
But I’ll be hoping the future protagonists are more of what Lessa should have been….