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Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey
Review by Meridel H. Newton
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0345441249
Date: 25 January, 2005 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Dragonsblood, Todd McCaffrey's first independent foray into his mother Anne McCaffrey?s world, Dragonriders of Pern series, offers a medley of new characters and situations, as well as a glimpse into Pern's distant past. Unfortunately, one gets the impression that this new writer tried to do a bit too much with his first independent novel.

The world of Pern is a unique one, where telepathically bonded humans and dragons fill the skies, defending the people below from the deadly airborne Thread. Todd McCaffrey's new novel, Dragonsblood introduces the reader to Lorana, a talented young girl who's lost her family. She is brought to Benden Weyr at the beginning of a dangerous new Pass, where she unexpectedly impresses a gold queen dragon. However, her coming signals dark times for all the dragons, as a plague soon spreads among them and threatens not only their existence, but all of life on Pern as well. Lorana must use her unique abilities to communicate with all dragons to find a way to cure a deadly illness without the help of technology or advanced scientific knowledge.

As a novel, Dragonsblood seems to pull its influences from earlier books in the Pern series. The main conflict is caused by plague, a la Moreta Of Pern and Nerilka's Story. The main character can hear all dragons, like Aramina from the short story, ?The Girl Who Heard Dragons?. As in Dragonflight, significant plot points can be found in an ancient teaching song, half forgotten by even the Harpers. Even the dolphins, from Dolphins of Pern, have a cameo. Finally, the story depends heavily on major figures from the founding of the colony, which, though it may have had the potential to add spice to the story, instead distracts the reader by deliberately reversing all that is known about those figures. In short, it seems as though the story was stitched together from various aspects of previous Pern stories, and fails to expand that universe. Though the author has succeeded in evoking the setting, the plot and pacing have fared less well.

The second major issue with Mr. McCaffrey's tale is that of Lorana, the main character. She is, in a word, perfect, annoyingly so. She overcomes tremendous personal tragedy to become a weyrwoman, impressing a dragon even though she had not been standing on the Hatching Grounds. She has not one, but two fire-lizards. She is tremendously talented with both artistic and healing abilities. She has no lack of interest from the opposite gender. She can suggest answers to problems that those far older and more experienced than she could not see. She learns three times faster than any one else, even in a group of elite students. She can hear and talk to all dragons. By way of comparison, the only other character in the series who had that particular ability eventually had a mental breakdown and was forced to leave the continent to get away from the voices in her head. Lorana says it feels "like being in a room full of her best friends".

As a first solo effort, Dragonsblood falls far short of expectations. While ardent fans of the series will not be deterred by its shortcomings, newcomers to the world of Pern would be advised to stick with Anne McCaffrey's original novels.

Hopefully, given time to develop as a writer, Mr. McCaffrey will be able to correct some of the mistakes made in his first novel and become the true successor readers anticipated.

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