I’ve been hoping to blog Anne McCaffrey’s sequel to her sequel of Dragonflight for a while now. I finished it over the summer, and then it seemed as though one thing happened after another, including a lengthy move, that did a fine job of sidetracking any writing efforts. I picked up The White Dragon when I bought The Black Gryphon a year ago at a now out of business used book store, one that I happened to be in town to visit on their very last day. Sad. I’m not sure which edition I have of the book, but it cost $7.99 so it must be recent. It’s a paperback with a tough cover.

Tough, but bland.

McCaffrey has such a generous output of stories in her Pernverse that at the time I was unaware of the close relation to Dragonflight. The blurb on the back did little to reveal the truth. The characters mentioned had yet to be born in the first book, so it seemed an isolated story. Thread is also mentioned on the back, but that could be true of most any book in Pern, so to make a long story even longer, I thought I was buying something that I could read on its own. Actually, it did work that way without having read Dragonquest (book 2,) but I did find myself feeling left out in places. It was nothing that made the book hard to understand, but having known right away how Jaxom and his dragon, Ruth, came to be, and having had a proper introduction to some of the other new characters would have made it more enjoyable.

 
Turns out Jaxom is the son of an antagonist from Dragonflight who had been offed early. I do like Jaxom, though his sometimes one track mind for sleeping with women is irritating. Being 18, I can’t fully blame him, but most of the time his exploits feel more like a distraction than anything serving the story. In contrast, Ruth has no interest in mating at all. This causes headaches for everyone, but Ruth fails to see why it’s an issue. The reasons for his problem do get answered eventually, adding some satisfaction to having to put up with Jaxom’s libido.

 
What begins as a “boy and his dog” type story eventually turns into a tale of exploration. Once Jaxom teleports his way to the southern continent, most of his lovely screen time with Ruth is pushed aside. I found this disappointing since it had been so enjoyable to see their bond. One of my complaints about Dragonflight had been that I never saw any genuine love between the human characters and their dragons. Anything that was there felt forced, but Jaxom and Ruth really do click. I began to see why people love McCaffrey’s work so much. It’s just a shame that this aspect of the story went ignored.

 

While I did enjoy this book much more than Dragonflight (her writing isn’t perfect, but it flows so much better,) there are still a few aspects that I don’t care for. I was never a fan of telepathy, but of course that’s how her dragons communicate. I do like how they can transmit pictures and feelings, but when they speak it sounds so emotionless, almost like a computer talking. Ruth is better about this at least, having a shred of personality. The others though lack soul. They come off cold and alien at times, but perhaps that’s what McCaffrey wants considering this is more sci-fi than fantasy. Also, the dragons committing suicide when their parters die has never set well with me. I certainly understand their heartache, but come on, hang in there. Tough it out. There are others around that care for you. I find it hard to believe this would be evolved behavior since the dragons have only been with humans a short while. What did they do before then? Bond with alien squirrels? It’s baffling and upsetting. I don’t care for the apostrophe names either. I wish McCaffrey would at least explain it. I thought it was something done when one partners with a dragon, but I recall at least one rider who had a normal name. Oh, and Lessa is still unlikable.

 
On the plus side, I loved the fire lizards. They’re mini dragons with the excitability of a box of jack russells. They continue to apparate in Ruth’s personal space, bombarding him with pictures and memories that help set off the plot. They’re an enjoyable addition to the series that I hope will stick around.

 
There’s a lull around the middle of the book where Jaxom gets sick from teleporting and has to stay in one place for a while. It’s only near the end that the momentum picks up again. It’s one of those cases where plenty is said without anything happening, and I found that section hard to get through, especially since I was hoping for more Ruth moments. That hope is what kept me reading, but thankfully the lull dies before the end. I found it to be a satisfying ending, and overall an enjoyable story, though it could have been easy to put down at points if I had been less determined to finish something I started. If McCaffrey had cut about 75-100 pages, it would have been a tremendous help to the pacing. I’ll likely read another Pern book sometime, but I have much more I’d like to get to first.