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On Dragonwings
Anne McCaffrey
Del Rey, 891 pages

On Dragonwings
Anne McCaffrey
Anne McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, MA. She graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, majoring in Slavonic Languages and Literatures. Her first novel, Restoree, was published by Ballantine Books in l967. However, she is best know for her Dragonriders of Pern novels. Del Rey has developed an extensive site dedicated to her Pern novels.

Although she used to make appearances throughout the world, arthritis has now restricted such travel. She lives in a house of her own design, Dragonhold-Underhill, in Wicklow County, Ireland.

Anne McCaffrey Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Acorna's Rebels
SF Site Review: A Gift of Dragons
SF Site Review: Freedom's Ransom
SF Site Review: Nimisha's Ship
SF Site Review: Black Horses for the King and If Wishes Were Horses
SF Site Review: The Masterharper of Pern
Excerpt: The Dolphins of Pern
Excerpt: Dragon's Eye - aka Red Star Rising

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

When I initially finished reading The White Dragon, there were so many questions left up in the air that I wanted answered that I hoped Anne McCaffrey would write a sequel to the book to explain what the dragon riders had found at Landing. Eventually, of course, McCaffrey did return to Pern and wrote numerous new novels and stories set in the same world. On Dragonwings contains three of those novels: Dragonsdawn, Dragonseye, and Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern. These three stories are linked by their portrayal of the history of Pern before the events of Dragonflight, the first Pern novel.

Dragonsdawn is the book which provides the most detailed answers to the questions raised in The White Dragon. More importantly, it tells a good story. Set immediately after the colonization of Pern by humans, McCaffrey looks at their initial struggles with their alien environment and provides details about the founders of Pern for whom so many natural and man-made features are named in the previous volumes.

In Dragonseye, McCaffrey moves to the period immediately prior to the second Fall of thread since the landing. Society is markedly different than it was in Dragonsdawn and the reader can see the precursor of the mock-Medieval society which exists in the original trilogy. Although this novel, in many ways, tracks to Dragonflight, one of its strengths is that McCaffrey shows a society in flux as many of the institutions which are established in Dragonflight are only being created for the first time in Dragonseye. Because of this, they are not the organizations which they later become, and they suffer from many faults which need to be corrected. It suffers from a certain amount of predictability for those who have read other novels in the series.

In the initial trilogy, McCaffrey made some fleeting (and not so fleeting) references to the fabled Ride of Moreta. In the third novel, she traveled to Moreta's time to describe the heroic and tragic attempt by the titular dragonlady to avert a plague sweeping Pern. As often happens when an author returns to a fabled period in their work, McCaffrey's depiction doesn't entirely live up to the legends which grew around it, however, that doesn't detract from the feat Moreta accomplished. As a side note, McCaffrey has returned to the period of Moreta's adventures in "Beyond Between," a story which appeared in Robert Silverberg's Legends II.

The three novels which are collected in On Dragonwings are not the strongest of the Pern novels, but they are a far cry from the weakest. All three add important elements and information to McCaffrey's world. If Dragonseye isn't as memorable as the two novels which bookend it in this omnibus, the other two tales more than make up for that weakness.

Copyright © 2003 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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