Author: Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey
Series: The Dragonriders of Pern
Publication: Del Rey; First Edition edition (July 11, 2006)
Description: Bringing fresh wonders and dangers to light in the skies of Pern, Anne McCaffrey and her son, Todd, who demonstrated his writing talents in the bestselling novels Dragon’s Kin and Dragonsblood, return with their second collaboration: a thrilling adventure of discovery and fate.
Pellar is an orphan taken in by Masterharper Zist. Though born mute, Pellar is a gifted tracker, and when Zist sets off to take over as harper for Natalon’s coal-mining camp, Pellar–along with his fire-lizard, Chitter–joins him on a secret mission of his own: to find out if reported thefts of coal are the work of the Shunned, criminals condemned to a life of wandering and hardship.
Halla is one of the children of the Shunned. Though innocent of their parents’ crimes, these children have inherited their cruel punishment. Lack of food, shelter, and clothes is their lot; hope is unknown to them. And what future would they hope for? Without a hold to call their own, there will be no protection for them when the lethal Thread inevitably falls again. Life is even tougher for Halla. Her family gone, she must fend for herself. Yet despite the brutality of her surroundings, Halla is kind and gentle, devoted to those more helpless than she.
As depraved as Halla is good, Tenim is in league with Tarik, a crooked miner from Camp Natalon, who helps him steal coal in exchange for a cut of the profit. But Tenim soon realizes there is a lot more to be made from firestone, the volatile mineral that enables the dragons of Pern to burn Thread out of the sky. Tenim doesn’t care what he has to do, or whom he has to kill, in order to corner the market.
Cristov is Tarik’s son. Dishonored by his father’s greed and treachery, the boy must make amends somehow, even if it means risking his life by mining the volatile firestone, which detonates on contact with the slightest drop of moisture.
When the last remaining firestone mine explodes in flames, a desperate race begins to find a new deposit of the deadly but essential mineral, for without it there can be no defense against Thread. But Tenim has a murderous plan to turn tragedy to his own advantage, and only Pellar, Halla, and Cristov can stop him–and ensure that there will be a future for all on the world of the Dragonriders.
My Thoughts: Pern is going through some growing pains 490 years After Landing. The common punishment for lawbreaking is Shunning of the lawbreaker and his or her family leaving roving bands of lawbreakers wandering Pern. In many cases, this means roving bands of children who have committed no crime but who are in danger of starvation.
It is also a time when mining for the firestone that the dragons need when Thread falls is at a low point. Any contact with water means the firestone explodes. When the story begins there is only one working mine.
There are quite a few viewpoint characters. All of them are quite young and are all about 10 to 12 when the story begins. Pellar is a mute orphan taken in by Harpers and trained to gather information. He is a gifted tracker and has great survival skills. Halla is a child of the Shunned is is busy caring for other young orphans. Cristov is a young miner whose father has been Shunned because he was stealing from the mine for his own profit. His father's thefts and corner-cutting caused the deaths of a number of miners. Cristov is determined to make up for his father's crimes. We also see Kindan again though his role in this story is relatively minor.
This story, along with many of the rest co-authored by Todd McCaffrey, takes place around the time of the Third Pass. The characters know that Threadfall is coming but it is still a number of years away.
The main villain of this story is Tenim who was also the child of Shunned parents and who is living up to their evil. He is a thief and murderer. His major plot in this story is to gain great wealth by cornering the market on firestone. He is willing to destroy mines and kill miners to further his plans.
I enjoyed the way the various plot threads were woven together in this one. I liked that a better solution for the Shunned was finally found because it never seemed fair to me that children should be punished for crimes their parents committed. I liked that all the Weyrleaders were not the same though I do wonder how D'gan of Telgar managed to impress his dragon. D'gan makes a fine secondary villain in this story because of his mistreatment of the Shunned and his single-minded pursuit of firestone no matter what it cost in lives.
This was another great entry into the long-running Pern series. In the internal chronology of the series this is probably book five. Published in 2006, it appears 38 years after the first published Pern book.
He shouldered his pack, pulled out a small shovel, and carefully dug up a small outcropping of the flowers.I bought this one. You can buy your copy here.
Carrying them in his hands, he returned to the grave site and firmly planted them on it, going so far as to pour a bit of his precious water over them. Images of Carissa were mingled in his mind with those of another child, older and faceless but another innocent lost because of the Shunned and those who Shunned them.