(Reread) Book Review: Dragonsong

DragonsongDetails:

Title: Dragonsong


Author: Anne McCaffrey


Publisher: Bantam Books


Release Date: March 1976 (mine was published January 1977)


Genre: Science Fiction Fantasy, Young Adult, Classic


Pages:176

 

Synopsis

Every two hundred years or so, shimmering threads fall, raining black ruin on Pern. The great dragons of Pern hurl themselves through the beleaguered skies, flaming tongues of fire to destroy deadly Thread and save the planet. It was not Threadfall that made Menolly unhappy. It was her father who betrayed her ambition to be a Harper, who thwarted her love of music. Menolly had no choice but to run away. She came upon a group of fire lizards, wild relatives of the fire-breathing dragons. Her music swirled about them; she taught nine to sing, suddenly Menolly was no longer alone.

(As written on the back of my yellowed copy)

 

My First Thoughts:

As I packed my books for my coming move into my first apartment, I found this book at the bottom of my bookshelf. I remembered most of the story and that I had read it in Middle School. The memory also brought back feelings of enjoyment and content, so I decided to read it again, especially since I have not done so in so long.

This did not originally belong to me, I actually nabbed it from my mother’s bookshelf where it was collecting dust. At the time, I believe I was 12-13, I had just started reading beyond The Magic Treehouse books and into “older” fiction. I saw the beautiful cover and was intrigued by the promise of adventure not with dragons, but tiny fire lizards.

 

Overall Opinions/Thoughts:

Rereading this book has been quite an adventure. It has given me insight on not just how well (or not so well) my memory is, but also how much my taste in literature hasn’t really changed. Sure, I have broadened my reading and expanded my horizons, but fantasy and science fiction are always my fall backs. I have also surprised myself as well, wondering how in the world this book kept my interest as an twelve year old with a short attention span.

This book is quite unique, well maybe for my collection, because it is one of those rare books that I would consider both science fiction and fantasy. It’s science fiction because the people are descendants of space travelers who colonized Pern, also because there’s mentions of time travel, and gives a scientific explanation of Threadfall. The book is also fantasy because there are not only dragons, but the world has a Medieval sort of feel to it because the people’s society had steered away from technology and directed more toward simple living. I believe the overall genre would be fantasy because most of the science fiction elements are only mentioned in the first few pages, which let’s be honest, not many people read the forward.

While the story is less than 200 pages, it doesn’t always feel that way. I sometimes had trouble with the pacing of this book. Sometimes the author would take a page to cover an entire day, sometimes a few pages to describe a week, or take several pages to describe a single event that took half a day or a few hours. I understand that many books are like this, however, I felt like some of the events that the author breezed over could have used the pages that other events didn’t really need as much. Also, the language of the book took me a little while to get use to, even by the end I had to go back and reread a few passages again before moving on. I enjoyed the language and writing style of the story, I felt like it really added to the atmosphere and made the story more authentic, especially with the dialogue. However, I believe that for many people, especially younger in age, the language and style might make the story a little difficult to read. In fact, I was surprised that my younger self was able to read through this book without having a lot of reading experience.

McCaffrey’s writing style may be a little difficult to get used to for younger audiences, not just because of the grammar and word usage, but how she actually tells the story. I’ve already mentioned about the pacing, but there’s more. It’s how McCaffrey creates her world. She doesn’t spend a lot of time describing things, at least not in the way many current literature does. Her descriptions of people and places are quite brief, and normally aren’t mentioned again unless from a different person’s perspective. I’ve found this style to be very common for this era of literature, but I do find that it may be an issue for younger generations, especially with their need for instant gratification and over explanations. I do have to say though, McCaffey does a wonderful job explaining the history of the world she created and certain events that follow in the story.

I found this story to be quite refreshing from my past few reads. Many of the books that I have recently read or bought are dripping with cliques, romance, and predictability (or a combination of the three). They’ve been pretty much the same story but with different names, personalities, and locations, sometimes even a different genre. So it was nice to read a Coming of Age story that didn’t even have a shred of romance in it, just about a young girl trying to find her way in a hostile society, overcoming adversity and befriending sassy fire lizards.

Like a traditional fantasy, this story has way too many characters to list and talk about. Some characters were used often, others were named and given a few scenes before they got left behind in the background. I found that the fire lizards could have been used better, there were times when a few were mentioned but it kind of felt like there were too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, in a few of the later scenes.

Most of the story is told through the eyes of Menolly, a young girl who loves to sing and play music, but is basically forbidden to do so because of the old ways of society. Apparently, music crafting is a man’s job and she lived in a society that was stuck in the past. However, Menolly survived and was actually a rather strong female character. She wasn’t mean or nasty, wasn’t bossy or pushy. She did what she could, and when it seemed like everything was pulled out from beneath her, she had the ability to look beyond herself and take care of the fire lizards even in her grief. She was even able to pull herself out of grief with the help of her friends, and learned to live for others and not just herself.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to read classic or old fantasy novels. It is technically a short read, though it may not feel like it sometimes, and it has a well thought out and wonderful story that any age could enjoy. I may even venture to guess that those of different ages will get something different out of it than others. I know that when I first read it I was fascinated by the dragons and learned that anything is possible if you fight for it. After reading it this time, I see a young woman (like myself) trying to find her place in the world and trying to figure out where she belongs.

I would also recommend this novel to anyone who wants to read more from older literature/fantasy. It’s perfect for any young person to read if they want to read from the past. The story isn’t too complicated and the literature and style can be understood, though depending on the person it may take a while to get used to. But it’s a good example/ stepping stone of classic fantasy without tackling novels like The Lord of the Rings first.

 

Ratings:

Rereadability: 4/5

Overall, this story was actually pretty fun to reread. There were a few sections that had totally slipped my memory, but it was nice to read those again. And I found it fun to reread this book, not just because of the nostalgia, but for the learning experience as well. This opportunity has allowed me to really see how I have grown as a reader, and to see just how strong I was to begin with. Rereading also gave me the ability to see how my perception changed, and see just what I got out of reading this novel now compared to when I was younger.

 

Story: 4/5

The story was a really good Coming of Age adventure. While the pacing was a bit odd for me and the characters were in plenty, the overall story was interesting and fun. It was a nice break from what I have read, or have been trying to read, the past few months. And I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Book Review: I Heard the Owl Call my Name

I Heard the Owl Call my Name

So this is the first old story that I have reviewed for this site, wow it might actually be the oldest one that I review for a while!

Details:

Title: I Heard the Owl Call my Name

Author: Margaret Craven

Publisher: Dell

Release Date: 1973 (first published 1967)

Genre: Historical Fiction, Classic Fiction

Pages: 159

Synopsis:

“The Indian know his village and feels it.”

His village is more than the strip of land four miles long and three miles wide that is his as long as the sun rises and the moon sets. His village is the river and the black-and-white killer whales that herd the fish to the end of the inlet. His village is the salmon who comes up the river to spawn, the seal who follow the salmon, the bluejay whose name is like the sound he makes−“Kwiss-kwiss.”

“His village is also the talking bird, the owl, who calls the name of the man who is going to die…”

It was to this village that the white man Mark Brian came−to learn the meaning of life and of death…

My First Thoughts:

My dad has been harping on me for a while to read one of his books and before I went off to school he gave me this one to take with me. This story meant a lot to my dad, because both he and his mother, my late grandmother, both liked reading it. So I decided to read it so I could feel closer to the two of them, especially since I didn’t really get to know my grandmother very long.

Story Breakdown:

This story has a long list of characters that come and go throughout the story, but each of them are unique enough to remember as they’re mentioned. There are two main characters in this story, a young white priest and a young Native American man.

Mark Brian is given the opportunity to shepherd the people of Kingcome and the surrounding settlements. Being so young, and living in a more developed area, Mark has never had the opportunity to live in a place so close to nature and her way of life. Instead of making people feel sorry for him and his lack of abilities, he decides to learn what he can from the people around him and conquer his tasks on his own until he must ask for help. Quiet and respectful of the Indians, he observes them and tries to understand the sadness in their eyes and what it means to live in a world that is constantly disappearing. As he grows as a priest he learns the harsh and natural realities of death, and the way of life that has all been taken away from the natives of the land. Along his journey he also learns what he can of the tribe’s old way of life, before the White Man came and changed it forever.

The second main character is Native American by the English name Jim Wallace. When you first meet Jim he is a very quiet, very cautious man who doesn’t really trust Mark. Jim’s opinion at first is very low, thinking that as soon as Mark faces the normal day-to-day hardships that he would leave at the next opportunity. As the story progresses though, Jim sees Mark’s true nature and he goes from being judgmental to accepting. Jim also transforms from being a traditional man of the tribe to a more forward, open-minded man as his friendship with the priest grows.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Not going to lie, the beginning was a little hard to get into because the writing style was not what I was used to. After a while though, I adjusted and really enjoyed this story. It felt like a breath of fresh air because it was so different than what I have been reading lately. The story wasn’t super complicated with lots of twisting passages that could lead to sequels, or tons of subplots to drag the story on. It was very short and sweet and to the point, with a nice straight path that lead to the end.

Another thing that I liked about it was the humbling affect that it had on me. It was a very calm read, and it was like stepping into an old black-and-white film or a John Wayne movie on the movie classics channel. I’m not sure how historically accurate it was, but to me it seemed to portray the native lifestyle very well and I believe that was what made it so humbling to me. It was especially sad to read about what the tribe’s history was and all of the cultural things they had to let go because the government told them to. It was so fascinating to read about some of the different traditions and stories, even if they weren’t from a real tribe. Some of their stories, especially about the swimmer, really stuck with me and made me think about their actual meaning.

The one thing I didn’t like about the book was the lack of description that I’m used to. A lot of books nowadays are full of descriptions, sometimes going a bit too far. However, this book didn’t lack imagery and world building, but it wasn’t done in such the grand scale that our books do now. The description was there, it was just very short and it set the mood more than the scene, which was a little hard for me to get used to.

Final Thoughts:

I can see now why my father and grandmother really liked this book. It was a really nice life journey to read about that made you see what some people went through and how one person can change a group of people, and how that same group can change the one. I definitely suggest reading this book outside of an English class on your own time because it was really enjoyable and different. The book had so many quotes that I loved that the side of the book is littered with tiny posted-notes, there were so many things said that could relate to current day. And this book, while short, really does put you through an emotional ride with ups and downs stretched out nicely within so few pages. It didn’t feel choppy or like whiplash, and the sad moments really punched you in the gut at times. By the end of the book I couldn’t read it while waiting for my classes because I would either partially cry or get misty-eyed. I’m really glad that my dad gave me this book to read!

Rating(s):

4/5

While it was a great story, I don’t think it quite deserves anything more than a four because of the difference in writing style and how hard it was for me to get into it at first. However, the story was really enjoyable after the first few chapters and was nicely paced. While there was a large cast of characters, each one had a purpose and played a major role telling the story and driving it forward. The history elements to the story were very nice, it added a quaint charm to the book and really helped immerse the reader into the settling. Overall a nice story to read during the fall as a nice break between larger novels.

Related Reviews/Books:

Coming soon!