The Dragonriders of Pern is a series of books by Anne McCaffrey (now taken up by Todd McCaffrey). For the series review, go here.
I personally have a very wide range of opinions on these books. Some of them I really enjoyed, and some of them I really did not care for. Since there are so many books, I’m not going to go through each one here. Instead, I’m going to list which of the books I would recommend reading, and what order I’d recommend reading them.
I can issue a blanket statement right now, to not read anything by Todd. I found the writing to be incredibly poor, and the plots insultingly bad. I rage quit “Dragonsblood” because it was so terrible. It did extremely poorly what “Moreta” had already previously done well. I also didn’t much care for a lot of the books Anne had written later on in the Pern timeline, where more and more of the science-fiction spaceships-and-computers was filtering into the world. The idea isn’t too terrible, but it often became a deus ex machina device to help progress the plot and solve problems. Oh, the Pernese don’t know how to do this thing? Let’s ask the omnipotent supercomputer! Ugh.
Anyway, here’s a list of the books I’d recommend reading of the Dragonriders series, and some notes about them. As always, these are just my opinions; other people might think that my list is in the wrong order, or more of the other books should be included. Your mileage may vary, as they say.
I’d recommended you start with this book, if you want to get into Pern, because it avoids most of the pitfalls of the series. It is the first in the Harper Hall Trilogy, the YA series McCaffrey wrote in her Pern universe. It is the story of how a young woman from a sea hold challenges gender stereotypes, and becomes the first person to bond with fire lizards.
Sequel to “Dragonsong.” Continues the story of Menolly; concurrent with the events in “Dragonquest.”
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
Set earlier in the timeline of Pern. Chronicles an outbreak of disease that sweeps across Pern, killing many humans and runnerbeasts. This is nearly disastrous as they are in the middle of a threadfall, and if the dragonriders are too sick to fly, the thread is free to ravage Pern. Gold rider Moreta is instrumental in fighting the pandemic. Her character is one of my favorites.
Takes place during the same timeframe as Moreta, but from the view of a side character. It’s much shorter than other Pern books – more of a novella length.
This is actually the first Pern book published. It started out as a couple short stories that were later joined together to make a novel. I don’t actually recommend that you start with the book because it’s… it’s not quite sure what it wants to be. The idea of Pern wasn’t fully realized when parts of it were written, it seems, which gives it a strange feeling when considered in the context of the series. Characters talk in a strange, affected manner in the beginning, and there are a lot of references to things that aren’t carried through to the rest of the books. I also got really annoyed with characters, as they just acted really oddly sometimes (and Lessa started out as a horrible person, honestly). The plot is very interesting though, on its own and in context of Pernese history, and for that reason I include it in this list.
Directly follows “Dragonflight”. It has some of the same pitfalls as that book, but it also has some of the same strengths. The plot is good, dealing with some of the implications and changes the events in “Dragonflight” caused. Reading it will also give some context to “Dragonsinger”.
The White Dragon
“Dragonflight,” “Dragonquest,” and this book make up the original ‘trilogy’ of the Dragonriders of Pern. Many of the events in the first two books come to fruition here. This book marks the start of the Pernese rediscovering and reclaiming their lost technological heritage. It honestly works pretty well as a conclusion for the world; though it doesn’t show the conclusion, it hints at how things would work out, ending on a hopeful note.
A Gift of Dragons
A collection of short stories. This includes “The Smallest Dragonboy,” the short story that was my introduction to Pern, read in the third grade. Nice little stories, tightly told and enriching the world of Pern.