Retro Review: The Harper Hall Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey

Title: The Harper Hall Trilogy (DragonSong, DragonSinger, DragonDrums)
Author: Anne McCaffrey
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy

This enduring trilogy, set in the larger Pern series, begins with Menolly in her isolated home of Half-Circle Sea Hold. She a highly gifted musician to the dismay of her family, and especially her father, who believe girls shouldn’t be harpers. After the death of Harper Petiron, Menolly’s only friend who encouraged her musical abilities and song writing, she is forbidden music.

Surrounded by harsh people and denied the one thing that makes her happy, Menolly spends her days as far away as possible collecting food. One such day finds her out during Threadfall, a deadly storm of menacing silver creatures that only devour and multiply. In her haste for safety, she unintentionally “impresses” nine fire lizards that resemble the large dragons that protect Pern from Thread.

The Harper Hall Trilogy follows the adventures of Menolly as she becomes one of the first female harpers, as well as how she and her friends start their influential lives on Pern.

My Thoughts:
A long time ago, I lost my excitement for reading. That’s mostly in part to school. We were required to read at or above our reading level and if we didn’t, we wouldn’t fulfill our point requirements. At 11 years old, I was reading at an 11th/12th grade level. You can understand my apathy towards my choices, especially when that just happened to be the time when the Harry Potter books were coming out. Suffice it to say, I was so frustrated with the situation that I quit reading.

But I am a reader at heart, and once I was a couple years away from that mess, I eased myself back in. After a few duds, I still wasn’t excited at the prospect of reading. This is where the Harper Hall Trilogy comes in. A friend suggested it to me and I devoured the trilogy, and all 15+ books of the series that were out at the time. My love of reading was rekindled by a book over twice my age. Consequently, the Pern novels will always hold a special place on my bookshelves.

As for the Harper Hall Trilogy itself, the books are quick reads (the longest being 240 pages) that ease readers into the world of Pern. As we follow Menolly, we meet characters from the rest of the series, and get a taste of the lifestyles of harpers, holders, dragonriders, and explorers.

At once, it is very easy to connect to the main characters in the trilogy because they are the ‘normal’ people, not those in the elevated roles of Lords or dragonriders, but at the same time, they are young and are sometimes preoccupied by shallow worries. In a series that is mostly adult, the teen perspective stands out a bit. For teens, this makes it a great starting point. For adults who don’t read Young Adult novels, I would suggest starting with DragonFlight.

DragonSong was first published in 1976. When I first read it in the early 2000s, I honestly thought it was more recent than that. After reading it this past week, the voice still feels more modern than the haughty fantasy that I’ve read from that era. I think that is one of the reasons this trilogy is so enduring. Not only did my grandmother love them, but so do my similarly aged friends and younger acquaintances.

I should also not that the first two novels follow Menolly, while the third follows her friend and harper apprentice Piemur. If you don’t know this is coming, it can be jarring. DragonDrums is also set three years after the end of Dragonsinger. Menolly still plays a significant role in the third installment, but she is definitely a side character. The first time I read it, I was mildly disappointed that Menolly was pushed to the side, but part way through, I was enjoying Piemur’s ‘scampish’ adventures.

I highly recommend this trilogy, and series, for fans of  fantasy, dragons, and sci-fi fantasy blends. This is also a great series for those who want to dip their toes into the fantasy genre.

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