The world of Pern has existed in science fiction literature since Anne McCaffrey introduced it in her novel DRAGONFLIGHT in 1968. Fifteen novels later, millions of readers worldwide have been caught up in her wondrous tales set in this other world, a mixture of science fiction and fantasy, and in the past few years she has taken on some help and fresh ideas from a logical co-author: her son, Todd. Their first collaboration, DRAGON'S KIN, worked so well that they decided to continue with two more books. DRAGON'S FIRE is the second of these collaborations.
Firestone is necessary for the dragons of Pern to breathe fire. It is their fire alone that can save Pern from the destructive Thread that falls from the sky when the planet passes the Red Star. Another passing is due but something is amiss in the land. Pellar, a mute orphan taken in by Harper Zist, is on a mission to find the thief of the coal mined at Camp Natalon. The belief is that it is being done by the Shunned, criminal outcasts who wander the countryside plundering what they can to survive.
Tenim, the leader of the children of the Shunned, is not alone in his thievery. Tarik, a local miner, aids him in his efforts to steal coal in exchange for a portion of the profits. Tenim, however, sees that the big payoff is to be found in Firestone. Though Pellar, Shunned Halla, and Cristov vie to stop him in his plans, the Firestone mine explodes. Now they must scramble to locate a new lode before the passing of the Red Star and the return of the deadly Thread. It is young Cristov, Tarik's son, who puts his life on the line to take over the mining operation.
DRAGON'S FIRE is everything one expects from an Anne McCaffrey Pern novel. It moves at a quick pace and is filled with deceptions and driving action, but not at the expense of detailing quality characters. Pellar, as the mute Harper-in-training, is an outstanding character to follow, especially when exploring his relationships with Halla, Christov, and his foster father, Harper Zist. The interplay among all of these characters is well defined, and their interpersonal relationships seem as important to everything as mining the Firestone does. The one area of concern with the novel is the overabundance of names. The book features a Dramatis Personae at the outset, and it is a good thing that it does. Much of the first four or five chapters involved having to flip back and forth repeatedly to get a proper perspective on who was who. The names come at you fast and furious.
That aside, however, the novel is strong and exciting. Once the names are firmly planted in your head, you can settle in for the ride and find nothing but enjoyment. Mother and son form a great team, and they obviously have a clear vision and great love for the world of Pern. This work also proves that Pern will be in very capable hands as Todd continues to expand on his mother's creation.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on January 21, 2011