Dragonflight by Anne McCaffery

Posted May 21, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 2 Comments



by Anne McCaffrey

Series: Dragonriders of Pern #1
Publisher: Ballantine Books on July 1, 1968
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult, Middle Grade, New Adult, Young Adult
Rating: ★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

To the nobles who live in Ruatha Hold, Lessa is nothing but a ragged kitchen girl. For most of her life she has survived by serving those who betrayed her father and took over his lands. Now the time has come for Lessa to shed her disguise—and take back her stolen birthright.

But everything changes when she meets a queen dragon. The bond they share will be deep and last forever. It will protect them when, for the first time in centuries, Lessa’s world is threatened by Thread, an evil substance that falls like rain and destroys everything it touches. Dragons and their Riders once protected the planet from Thread, but there are very few of them left these days. Now brave Lessa must risk her life, and the life of her beloved dragon, to save her beautiful world....


Nobody was more surprised than me to find the beloved, influential, and groundbreaking Dragonriders of Pern series is science-fiction?  Pern is a moon, and the Pernese are humanoids; dragons are a highly specialized, domesticated breed of the moon’s creatures.

So yeah.  Explanation for dragons is that they are actually alien creatures.  I don’t know why this shocks me so much, but it makes sense.  I’ve just never seen dragons as part of sci-fi!  It took me a few minutes to shake that off.  Because, yes, this is my first read of Dragonflight and the Dragonriders of Pern in general.  And as someone who loves dragon stories, this is inexcusable.

The writing is… a little stiff for me, if I’m being honest.  This may be in part because of the narrator – Dragonflight was recorded thirty years ago, and the audiobook is a cleaned up version.  The recording is good, but it’s read in such a way it felt it was a book being read out loud, rather than a radio play like most modern audiobooks.  And, because of that, it was a bit more difficult to listen to.

Again, maybe this is just the audiobook, but I felt the plot jumped all over the place.  One minute they were recruiting (read: kidnapping almost?) a new Weyrwoman, the next there were concerns over food shortages, and finally there was an attack, I guess, and thwarting of which required impossible time travel by a rookie to amass experience warriors.  This is a very short book, and a lot happened plot-wise that made the whole thing go very quickly, but not always in a good way.

The length of the book caused it to suffer in multiple areas.  The world building was good in the beginning, where there was an explanation of dragons and how they came to be.  It was a bit tacky, but it was effective.  Everything else in Dragonflight relied on the reader’s suspension of disbelief and while, as a sci-fi/fantasy reader, I expect to do a bit of that… but it required lengths that I thought pushed the line.  The time travel thing annoyed me most, because the explanation for it was weak at best and the consequences mentioned but never really… experienced?  The consequences that were experienced were easily thwarted.  Just… generally unsatisfying in that way.

Consequences were always thwarted, by the way.  Dragonflight is one of those books where the characters get out of every impossible pinch with ease.  Aggravating.

I never got a good feel for the world, either.  I couldn’t picture it in my head because there were almost no descriptive passages.  You can get a little feel for culture, but it’s not… great.  It’s in quick little political asides.

The characters were a mess.

Yes, even Lessa.

All the characters were shallow and changeable and seemed to carry only the most extreme emotions.  I think McCaffrey was trying to create romance between Lessa and F’lar and it was, at best, stiff, and at worst disgusting, sexist, and criminal.  Lessa’s essentially raped and the characters get aroused when their dragons are aroused like “oh no not my fault blame my dragon” and it’s just… it’s so cringy.  I get that this book was written in 1968, I really do, and the fact that Lessa is riding forth as a Strong Female Protagonist is amazing… but… I just… there’s no reason for this?  It’s a long series, so I’m sure the character grow (right? I hope?) but at this stage, there’s very little reason to be attached to any of them, and that’s the nicest, most objective way I can put it.

If I’d read this book when I was younger – fifth or sixth grade – I think a lot of the stuff that bothered me now would have gone over my head and I’d be drawn in by the dragons and the female lead.  Unfortunately, I’m entering the series with zero nostalgia and a keen sense of exactly how often F’lar shakes Lessa and I’m… not impressed.  Both not impressed and not interested.  I do get that there are classics that we all love despite any problematic elements and how very much they are subjects of the time they were written, and I won’t judge all the people out there who love Dragonflight for their attachment to the series.  It’s impossible to deny how influential these books were to the growth of dragon-fantasy, and for that, I can begrudge the series a little respect.

But I’m deeply uninterested in picking up book two.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★
Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★
Writing: ★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★ 1/2


Did you grow up reading the Dragonriders of Pern?  If you’ve read this series before, what did you think of it?  Do you think I’m quitting prematurely?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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2 responses to “Dragonflight by Anne McCaffery

  1. I haven’t read this series. I remember when it was said that Eragon was a rip off of these books, lol, but I was in middle school and didn’t care. It sounds to me like they’re quite different… I have a hard time with most fantasy published between the 1960s and 1980s. Based on your review, I’m pretty sure this book would irritate me, so I’m happy to pass it by, haha.

    Jenna @ Falling Letters recently posted: 35 Middle Grade Fantasy Faves [Wyrd & Wonder]
    • Amber

      It really wasn’t what I was expecting – I was thinking it would be more Tamora Pierce-esque, but with dragons? Cool concept, poor execution. Like a lot of 60s-80s fantasy, you’re right. Dry and cringey. ? Don’t blame you for passing!