We’re a week into 2020 already, and it looks as though Tuesdays are going to be blog days (apart from the odd one where I am stuck in a meeting room all day in Edinburgh, which I will warn you about).
So far this year I’ve finished ‘Never Die’ by Rob. J. Hayes (5* and would highly recommend for anyone with an interest in Asian-based fantasies) and ‘Winterglass’ by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (4*, beautiful language and fantastic queer representation) which were both excellent, and that I reviewed on Goodreads. At the moment, I am roughly 75% through ‘The Wolf’s Call’ by Anthony Ryan (which I will be discussing in my next post because my love for the world of this book is off the charts), and I have just started ‘Spark City’ by Robert J. Power. I have also signed up to participate in the #armedwithabingo Book bingo – with Winterglass giving me my first stamp.
Today, however, I am going down the path of nostalgia. I saw a post on Reddit the other day, asking what books were the ones that stood out for people in fantasy, getting them hooked on the genre.
For me, that was Anne McCaffrey.
I was six or seven, a voracious reader and bored with everything on my own bookshelves, so I had gone to raid the living room in the hopes of finding something I hadn’t read before (and wasn’t about gardening), and there I found ‘Dragonsong’ by Anne McCaffrey. It’s a short book, and even back then it didn’t take me long to read – but I was hooked. For one, it had Dragons! Even now, over two decades later, I am still Dragon-mad, and while much of the fantasy I read now doesn’t involve them, I am a sucker for the books that do. (I was the child whose favourite films were ‘A Flight of Dragons’ and ‘Dragonheart’).
After reading Dragonsong, I moved on and read the rest of the series, mostly out of order at the time. In doing so I realised two things: (1) That I loved the Dragonriders of Pern series and (2) While Dragonsong had probably been a good introduction, it was the later books, which were longer and more detailed, particularly on the wider-scale world-building, that really cemented the world. Some of my favourites in the series are ‘All the Weyrs of Pern’, ‘The White Dragon’ and ‘The Skies of Pern’. Yet, if anyone was to ask me, it would always be Dragonsong that I would name first.
With that, and that post on Reddit in mind I re-read Dragonsong last night. Do I still love it? Yes, although I read it faster now (which is why I like meat on my books). Do I still feel the same as I did, when comparing it against the rest of the series? Yes. There is so much more to Pern than is expressed in that book – I mean Dragons in Space!! How people came to Pern and had to develop the dragons as a defence, none of that would be known from that book. However, what rereading it did remind me of, and some of the reasons I enjoyed it so much the first time – is that it does show us a lot more of the world beyond the dragons.
You get to see the industries, the culture – the role of the Harper hall throughout all the books has been one of my favourite parts of the series and I always adored Masterharper Robinton. It also had a female main character, who wasn’t outstandingly beautiful and certainly wasn’t popular, who was flawed and fighting against expectation in her own way, and who followed her own path, and took risks to do so. That left one hell of an impression on little me and reading it as an adult, I can see how reading that then has influenced the kind of characters I prefer to read about. It was also the first time that I had focused so much on worldbuilding (not that I would have called it that back then), but I knew I wanted the details from the ground up.
Would I rate these books as highly today if I was coming to them as a first-time reader? Possibly not, because my tastes have shifted and changed a lot over recent years. I lean very much towards epic fantasy now, and grimdark. However, I still love the Dragonriders of Pern series and I probably always will – part of it is nostalgia, another part is Dragons, and the other is the fact that without picking up that little book over two decades ago, perhaps Fantasy wouldn’t have become my favourite genre to read – or the one that I am writing for (although, shockingly I have yet to write dragons!).
So, there you have it a little path down memory lane. My next post will be about ‘The Wolf’s Call’ by Anthony Ryan, and whatever else I manage to read between now and then. I’m on holiday next week (got to recover from working retail at Christmas) so there will be much reading and writing… and editing.