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Dragonheart by Todd McCaffrey

01/11/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Dragonheart in the USA - or Buy Dragonheart in the UK

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pub: Del Rey/Ballantine. 534 page hardback. Price: $27.00 (US), $32.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-44124-9.

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'Dragonheart' is Todd McCaffrey's third solo 'Dragonriders Of Pern' book and the fifth he's been involved with over all, having co-written the last two with his mother, Anne McCaffrey. Those two books 'tuition' have helped him a lot compared to his first two and I hope any publishers using the off-spring of established writers at least learn from this and get them some working experience writing stories of their own before dabbling in their parents' realities. Any nascent storytelling ability might be there but developing good storycraft still takes practice without using a co-writer.

With 'Dragonheart', we are back in the 500th century of Pern on the eve of threadfall. Even before this, things are dire as dragons are dying from some unknown disease and no-one having a clue what to do after the previous flu epidemic that killed so many of the healers and harpers. With dwindling numbers of dragons plus those injured by thread, the leaders of Fort Weyr decide to send the injured seven years into the past to recuperate and away from the infection. That same night, Fiona - Lord Holder Bemin's young daughter and now impressed with a gold dragon - and other yearlings with their dragons are plucked by some mysterious riders and sent back in time to them as well. When they are grown, they will also contribute to the wings to fight the thread.

Much of this tale is shown from Fiona's perspective and how she uses her holder trained skills to trade and keep themselves being discovered by any of the weyrs. Mind you, they do take over the deserted Igen Weyn which is in one of the hottest areas on the northern continent of Pern.

McCaffrey has made a rather compelling read as to what happens next plus several mysteries that are likely to be resolved in the books that follows. Much of this book follows Fiona's maturity but equally a lot of the other characters are fleshed out as well. The weyrwoman might only be a teen but I had to check with reference books to confirm that the Pern year wasn't much different to the Earth year and there wasn't much difference in her as she matured.

There are still a few places like these that McCaffrey needs to sort. You would be hard to tell the difference in the characters' minds as they become fuzzy when they are aware that they have timed it into times where they co-exist with each other. The second is remembering chapter length. 60 pages at a time forces the reader to decide when to stop for the day instead of the author controlling the pace of each read. Again, now McCaffrey is getting to grip with his earlier problems I'm sure these will be sorted in the coming books.

If you like the 'Pern' books then you will find it easier to get into this novel.

GF Willmetts

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