This is the fifth novel Anne McCaffrey set on Pern. It is placed with the first two novels in the series to form a trilogy called the “Dragonriders of Pern”, but it can almost stand as a separate novel. There are references that will be easier to understand if the first four books have been read.
The story begins a year or two after Jaxom accidentally impressed Ruth. Ruth has reached his full growth and Jaxom is now permitted to train to ride Ruth. The training only includes flying Ruth not fighting with him, so Jaxom secretly tries to train Ruth in how to fight Thread, the nasty flesh eating spore that periodically falls on Pern. He makes use of his limited training while playing his part in recovering a queen egg the Oldtimer’s stole. After that he is trained in fighting Thread, to prevent future foolishness. Then he is drawn into the task of finding where D’ram, retired weyrleader of Ista, has taken himself after the death of his weyrmate (wife). This leads to a serious illness and then an exploration of the southern continent that marks the Pern series as being Sci-fi rather than fantasy.
Along the way Jaxom grows up. He starts as a teenager with a certain amount of teenage angst over how he fits into his world. By the end of the story he’s married and grown into his dual responsibilities as Lord Holder and dragonrider.
This is an enjoyable book; not challenging, except maybe on the women’s rights front, but not so formulaic as to be predictable. The main characters are complex enough that they can be interesting and the minor characters are simply drawn, but solidly enough not to distract. Unless women’s rights are a serious concern, this is a book that is well worth putting on the list for light reading.
On the women’s rights front this book follows the earlier books, which were published starting in 1968. All of the top positions are filled by men and expected to be filled by men. There are a handful of strong women, who are put in positions supporting the top men.