Harper Hall Trilogy

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The Harper Hall of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

This trilogy by McCaffrey complements her initial series, The Dragonriders of Pern. In fact, the first two books of this trilogy were written before The White Dragon, the final book of the Dragonriders trilogy. Harper Hall is also a considerably shorter series, geared more towards the young adult market. However, this should not dissuade anyone who has enjoyed earlier works of McCaffrey. These three stories add a lot of background information, providing additional details that help to broaden the reader’s understanding of Pern. They are also interesting because McCaffrey writes them from a different perspective. Rather than focusing on the dragonriders and the Weyrs, she presents ongoing events through the eyes of those in the Harper Hall. The craft of Harper is loosely based on the ancient Celtic concept of the harper as a respected member of the community, responsible for teaching and communication, as well as traditional entertainment. This also allows McCaffrey to use her considerable musical background to good advantage.

Although this trilogy is no longer available as one complete volume, each of the novels has been published individually and they are still in print.

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Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey

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Menolly is a young girl, full of music. Unfortunately for her, Half-Circle Sea Hold is a fiercely traditional hold. Her father, Sea Holder Yanus, believes the craft of Harper is for males only. Her mother, Mavi, believes that everyone should be productive, and Menolly’s music doesn’t fit those qualifications. Her only ally has been Petiron, the Hold’s old Harper, who encouraged Menolly’s composing and playing, even going so far as to send a message to MasterHarper Robinton. But, since Petiron’s passing, she has been forbidden to so much as whistle a bar of one of her tunes. As her loneliness and frustration grows, Menolly finally takes desperate steps.

Independent and quick thinking, Menolly sets out on an adventure that involves discovering fire lizards and surviving Threadfall on her own. Unaware that many people are actively searching for her, her path eventually leads her to Benden Weyr and fulfillment far beyond her dreams. As with McCaffrey’s other Pern novels, many familiar characters reappear, but this time the dragonriders are not the main focus of the story. Although some may find this story to be somewhat predictable, I found it interesting to see Pern from a completely different perspective.

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Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey

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The second volume of The Harper Hall trilogy continues the story of Menolly, the sea holder’s daughter. Rescued from Thread, taken to Benden Weyr and subsequently whisked away to the Harper Hall, Menolly hardly has time to comprehend the changes she now faces. She encounters prejudice and envy, and learns that even the Harper Hall can be less than idyllic. But, she also makes some good and important friends, and finds some surprising allies. As a lowly apprentice, Menolly discovers there is more to life as a harper than she ever dared to dream.

McCaffrey condenses a lot of action into a short time frame, since this story spans just seven days in Menolly’s life. This was a quick, light read — definitely geared towards the young adult audience. It was interesting, but possibly not up to McCaffrey’s usual standards. The plot line is a simple one of a young girl coming to grips with new situations and responsibilities and is one that many younger people can relate to.

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Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey

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McCaffrey returns a third time to the Harper Hall, this time to concentrate on the antics of Menolly’s young friend Piemur. Introduced in the previous volume, Piemur is younger than most of the harper apprentices, but has been taken in because of the quality of his singing voice. Piemur is quite a conniver, using his age and small size to great advantage. Although prone to mischief, he is intelligent and is capable of discretion when necessary.

When Piemur’s voice begins to change, right before the most important singing role of his young life, he fears that this loss will mean the end of his career in the Harper Hall. Fortunately for Piemur, his other abilities have not gone unnoticed. Personally enlisted by MasterHarper Robinton, Piemur begins a series of adventures that will ultimately lead him to the Southern Continent.

This is another well-done novel by McCaffrey. While not as complex as some of McCaffrey’s other works, it is enjoyable and is interwoven with familiar characters from earlier stories. Dragondrums provides some additional background details, which are helpful when reading The White Dragon, the last volume of the Dragonriders trilogy. This is a good companion piece, but it also stands on its own merits.

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