Dragon’s Code

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Dragon’s Code by Gigi McCaffrey
I read it as a: digital galley
Source: Netgalley
Length: 272 pp
Publisher: Del Rey
Year: 2018

A NEW PERN BOOK!! *FLAILS*

Ahem. Dragon’s Code, set in the Ninth Pass of the Red Star, returns readers to the characters Lady Anne originally wrote – F’lar, Lessa, Master Robinton, the Oldtimers. Here, young harper Piemur, whose voice had previously been glorious until its adolescent break, has been somewhat adrift for the past three years. While waiting for his voice to settle, he has been mapping the Southern Continent for Robinton, but has been pining for his lost voice and his harper’s trade. He feels bereft and useless, something no one enjoys. Robinton, really the Pern equivalent of Francis Walsingham, spymaster extraordinaire, has learned of a plot against Jaxom, the young Lord of Ruatha. This is based in part on the theft of Ramoth’s queen egg by the desperate Oldtimers, an event that could drive dragon to fight dragon, and which is very familiar to long-time Pern fans. In response, Robinton sends Piemur and Sebell, his own journeyman, into Nabol, from whence the threat arises. While there, Piemur and Sebell encounter the worst people Nabol has to offer, enduring abuse and worse. Piemur has to learn the lesson that sometimes revenge serves no justice and can cause further damage. Ultimately, he finds his voice – in an unexpected way.

This was a wonderful addition to the Pern canon. I admit that part of it is pure nostalgia because no one can write Pern as well as Lady Anne herself, not even her daughter. The Ninth Pass is my favorite, mostly because that is what Lady Anne wrote mostly, and what she wrote first, and what most readers were introduced to when first encountering Pern. It’s the “right” time to be in. It felt good to come home to the Ninth Pass.

I also loved seeing Piemur grow from a lost, and let’s face it, kind of whiny kid to a young man full of purpose and drive. There was a lot to be said of his path in this story. It is not just a traditional bildungsroman, which would have been boring, indeed. He learned to lean on his friends and family, to trust himself, and when in doubt, always listen to your mother. I loved the bits of wisdom Ama doled out – it felt like those might have been things Lady Anne said to Ms Gigi and Todd as they grew up. It was like a little bit of Anne coming back to talk to her readers, and whether it is true or not, it was delightful. My favorite was:

I don’t think, my Pie, that any of us could be happy in life by doing just one thing. Through all these long Turns I’ve lived, I’ve grown to see some parts of my life very clearly. It was the unlikely choices I made – where the sights I set my aim at were hardest to reach – that became the most highly valued feats of my life. Maybe it’s because the goals were hard-won. I could not say for certain. … You’ll be fine, my Pie. Just be yourself, and always listen to your instincts…and you’ll be fine. (Kindle loc 3421)

Piemur took these words to heart and managed to find his voice, literally and figuratively, in a way that is perfect for him. I can’t wait to see what the next installment has in store.

The book played on themes of honor and trust throughout, which is directly related to the titular dragon’s code. The code that has to be upheld for Pern’s way of life to work has been violated on both sides – Oldtimer and modern riders alike have acted wrongly. The trust the crafters and holders place in the dragons has been broken. The honor of the dragonfolk has been bent, if not broken as well, and all must learn to work together to repair the code.

At first, there was a little too much telling and not showing, especially for readers already intimately familiar with Pern. It took a little while, but Ms. Gigi did eventually hit her stride and the pacing got much better. Some things are a little inaccurate based on her mother’s previous books. For example, Silvina is the Harper Hall’s headwoman, not Fort’s. The Hall and Fort are separate, though adjacent, so each would have their own headwoman. Totally minor, though, and not anything that took away from the overall story.

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this book – I already preordered the hardcopy for my own collection – and was absolutely beside myself to see a new Pern book on the market. I devoutly hope there will be more Pern books, and soon, from Ms Gigi. I was fine when Todd was writing Pern books, because any Pern book is better than none. But I didn’t care for his nearly as well as I did for this one. I thought Ms Gigi’s was better written, and I admit that I prefer those that are set in the Ninth Pass.

Dear Ms Gigi – PLEASE write more Pern books! I loved this and miss the people of the Ninth Pass terribly. They are real people, you know, and we need to visit our friends. I can’t wait to see what Piemur’s new career has in store for him! Love, Me.

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