Book Review: Dragonquest: A Feminine Heroine’s Story

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Those who have been reading this blog since June will remember that I read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight for class and that it left some interesting Threadscores on my brain, entering my dreams long after I’d thought that I’d finished with the book.  Dragonflight I fell asleep holding constantly and didn’t particularly enjoy.  With Anne McCaffrey’s untimely death, I decided to give the highly praised authoress a second try.  Foresighted enough to have bought a copy of Dragonflight that also included the second and third books of The Dragonriders of Pern, I went on to book two: Dragonquest.

Dragonquest held my attention far more raptly than did Dragonflight.  I’ve concocted two theories why:

  1. The assignment of Dragonflight happened to fall on a week when my body and my brain had just had it with work and felt that rest was far more important than any epic and brave quests to try and save the world of Pern from their newly returned enemy.
  2. Dragonflight’s heroine, Lessa, newly proclaimed Weyrwoman of Brenden Weyr is not the type of heroine to whom I readily relate.  She is too much of a warrior.

This second theory came to me upon reading Tamora Pierce’s reflections upon McCaffrey’s death.  Pierce, whose woman warriors I similarly have trouble relating to, lists Dragonflight but not Dragonquest among the most influential to her life of McCaffrey’s books.

Dragonquest deals less with Lessa and more with the Southern Weyrwoman Brekke.  Brekke is known for her gentle, restorative care and her management of the weyr, more, if I dare use the term, stereotypically assigned feminine qualities than Lessa’s fearless recklessness and stubbornness.  I relate personally more with Brekke, I think, than I do Lessa, better known, I think, and preferring to be known for the care I have for others than for some heroic and reckless deed, perhaps even unwillingly to risk my life as Lessa does in such an endeavor.  I might germinate the idea of such a quest, I might direct it from the ground, but I don’t feel that in her position I would likely have gone myself.  I am not a woman warrior; I avoid conflict as a rule and am far more likely to be found in the Lower Caverns, cooking, weaving, and tending the injured than dragon-back in a Thread Fall.  I appreciate the appearance of women warriors in literature and recognize their importance, but I’m glad too for the women less interested in fighting, more interested in stereotypically feminine pursuits, and I think we should be careful not to lose either from our libraries, for while those who do relate to the woman warrior might be more vocal, those of us who avoid fights are still here, still actively reading.

I prefer F’nor too, who is the hero of this second book and is more easy-going, less military in personality, to F’lar, especially in Dragonflight where his buoyancy and ability to joke with Lessa lightened the heaviness of approaching threat.

Minor characters like Felessan and Jaxom, whom I want to have their own short stories detailing their adventures (if such things exist, someone needs to tell me.  Note: this is Felessan and Jaxom without the contraction), and increased importance and complexity of Pernese politics further kept me interested in the plot of Dragonquest.

****

McCaffrey, Anne.  The Dragonriders of Pern.  New York: Del Rey-Ballantine-Random, 1988.

Dragonflight first published in 1968.

Dragonquest first published in 1971.

This review is not endorsed by Anne McCaffrey, Del Rey, Ballantine Books, or Random House, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

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