Science Fiction readers are no strangers to the series format. Many well-known tales of fancy have come from science-fiction series, not the least of which being Amber, The Lord of the Rings, and Pern. Some authors become quite taken with the series idea, and further subdivide their series into other, smaller series. Anne McCaffrey's DragonRiders of Pern series follows such a pattern, and gives readers a simpler method of referring to groups of related yarns within the whole Pern universe. The Harper Hall Trilogy is one such subdivision, and moreover, is one worth lauding.
With the exception of one of Ms. McCaffrey's short stories, "The Smallest Dragonboy," the Harper Hall Trilogy is the only portion of the Pern series that is of a readable nature for young adults. That's a blessing, to be sure, because the trilogy presents so much within its pages that could be of worth to a young person reading it.
The series speaks to any child with a dream in life. As McCaffrey weaves her tale of trials and tribulations for Menolly, and later Piemur, she makes one point plain to her readers, the point that through whatever adversity one faces, things are bound to be all right in the end, provided that one is willing to try, work, and think.
Menolly's story, which begins in DragonSong, the first novel of the trilogy, depicts family life at its worst. Menolly is not only abused, but she is abused for partaking in that which she loves with the very fabric of her being: music. With no one trained to use this hallowed medium to impart knowledge to the minds of Half-Circle Sea Hold's children, Menolly attempts the task. After being caught "tuning," or "composing," after giving a lesson, Menolly is soundly beaten and discouraged from doing the work of a harper, who should, after all, be a man. (!!!!!) Her strict parents, however, fail to realize Menolly's true worth as a fantastic musician.
Menolly lives through several different obstacles, but her life's path finally brings her into contact with the master of all the musicians on Pern: MasterHarper Robinton. McCaffrey never created a character so unique, and at once, so familiar. Robinton knew of Menolly's songs, and, in his charming and compelling way, offers Menolly the offer of her lifetime. He offers this girl, someone who should never have been a musician, according to her parents, an apprenticeship in the HarperCraft. What more could the lass do than accept?
The second novel, DragonSinger, chronicles Menolly's transport from one end of Pern to another, namely to reach the HarperCraftHall, and another chapter in her life. Menolly always fancied herself as good, but she never thought being a musician on Pern meant all that she faced in her new life. Her new teachers and fellow students turned her life into one fraught with stress. Still, her life holds a beacon of peace. Through all her trials, MasterHarper Robinton, and his journeyman, Sebell, buoy Menolly's confidence and help her to further believe in herself. McCaffrey illuminates such a moral in an ingenious manner. What more important lesson is there for any child with a dream?
The third and final novel of the series, DragonDrums, brings Menolly's tale full circle and begins the tale of another's trials. That another is Piemur, a young lad gifted with a practically angelic boy soprano voice. Piemur is nearly 14 in this novel, and, as is the case with most boys his age, his voice changes. What was once his only bulwark of success in this Craft is now taken from him. He suffers much dejection and self-deprecation, but through it all, finds an incredible opportunity presenting itself to him that he would never have been offered had he kept his boyish treble voice. A door in his life had been closed, but a marvelous window opened. Here is another moral of much import to a child pursuing his or her future!
I myself am a high school student and an avid reader. Of all the books I have ever read, I can think of none better for me as a young adult making her way in her school and her world than these three texts. Every day I encounter teachers and classmates not at all unlike Menolly's and Piemur's. Every day I continue to take solace in times of failure or rejection that my life is not altogether different from what those two unique individuals encountered, and every day I hope to meet a future as vivid as theirs.
Long live Pern!
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