Top critical review
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For die-hards, it's ok; for others, not worth it.
on May 6, 1998
First, let me say that I'm a die-hard Pern fan, and Robinton is one of my favorite characters from Pern. It was very nice to have a novel which detailed his background so well. However, this novel is severely handicapped by all the same faults found in the later Pern novels. First, there are many re-hashed plots. For example, Robinton's problems with his father mirror Menolly's problems with her father, and they end in the same way (even down to the exact same speech spoken by the Masterharper when each gets promoted to journeyman). Second, the characters are very one-sided, and are sometimes even direct copies of others. For example, Petiron is exactly like Yanus Seaholder; Halanna, when you first meet her, is exactly like Kylara, and when she changes, you never see her again; Manora is fifty years younger than in Dragonflight, but hardly has any physical description other than her "quiet dignity," a phrase used to describe her in every other book. Third, Robinton is a god. He is the best musician on the planet and the nicest person, and everyone looks out for his well-being. Even as a child, his greatest problem was his father, and everyone shielded him from him; Robinton managed to escape from the Harper Hall as a journeyman without ever truly having to face his greatest problem. Except for the fact that Robinton is my favorite character in the series, I would have no real emotional attachment to him in this book--he is too perfect.
I've read every Pern novel and short story that has been published, and some are better than others. This one isn't the worst, but it isn't the best either. It does provide a great history for the other novels. However, in general, McCaffrey's writing suffers from repetition of description and plot, and an inability to create deep characters. The worlds she creates (such as in Pern and the Crystal Singer novels) are beautifully crafted, but the books, especially the later ones, become banal.