Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Dragonriders of Pern #3

The White Dragon

Rate this book
Volume III of The Dragonriders of Pern®, the influential series by sci-fi/fantasy titan Anne McCaffrey

Never in the history of Pern has there been a dragon like Ruth. Mocked by other dragons for his small size and pure white color, Ruth is smart, brave, and loyal—qualities that he shares with his rider, the young Lord Jaxom. Unfortunately, Jaxom is also looked down upon by his fellow lords, and by other riders as well. His dreams of joining the dragonriders in defending Pern are dismissed. What else can Jaxom and Ruth do but strike out on their own, pursuing in secret all they are denied? But in doing so, the two friends will find themselves facing a desperate choice—one that will push their bond to the breaking point . . . and threaten the future of Pern itself.

468 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published June 1, 1978

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Anne McCaffrey

580 books7,093 followers
Anne McCaffrey was born on April 1st, 1926, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Her parents were George Herbert McCaffrey, BA, MA PhD (Harvard), Colonel USA Army (retired), and Anne Dorothy McElroy McCaffrey, estate agent. She had two brothers: Hugh McCaffrey (deceased 1988), Major US Army, and Kevin Richard McCaffrey, still living.

Anne was educated at Stuart Hall in Staunton Virginia, Montclair High School in Montclair, New Jersey, and graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, majoring in Slavonic Languages and Literatures.

Her working career included Liberty Music Shops and Helena Rubinstein (1947-1952). She married in 1950 and had three children: Alec Anthony, b. 1952, Todd, b.1956, and Georgeanne, b.1959.

Anne McCaffrey’s first story was published by Sam Moskowitz in Science Fiction + Magazine and her first novel was published by Ballantine Books in 1967. By the time the three children of her marriage were comfortably in school most of the day, she had already achieved enough success with short stories to devote full time to writing. Her first novel, Restoree, was written as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in s-f novels in the 50s and early 60s. It is, however, in the handling of broader themes and the worlds of her imagination, particularly the two series The Ship Who Sang and the fourteen novels about the Dragonriders of Pern that Ms. McCaffrey’s talents as a story-teller are best displayed.

She died at the age of 85, after suffering a massive stroke on 21 November 2011.

Obituaries: Locus, GalleyCat.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
20,628 (44%)
4 stars
16,172 (34%)
3 stars
8,166 (17%)
2 stars
1,339 (2%)
1 star
293 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,003 reviews
Profile Image for Emily.
706 reviews2,045 followers
November 29, 2020
OKAY. In 2013, I stated that Jaxom gets worse and worse with each passing year. I recant. I recant, I say!! Jaxom actually gets EXPONENTIALLY worse with each passing year. Rereading the Pern series in 2020 is both (1) exceptionally fun and (2) extremely surprising. The series has such imaginative sweep and narrative power, but that's paired with some of the most unlikeable characters I've ever read in fiction, along with very uncomfortable sexual politics. It took me almost two weeks to muddle through the reread of this book because I simply did not want to spend any more time with Jaxom. I have spent the last few days thinking about my major issues with Jaxom, and they all boil down to this: Jaxom is an entitled frat boy who has absolutely every single advantage in life, and we're somehow supposed to root for him! It's worse than Harry Potter turning out to be a hot jock cop! At least Harry Potter didn't spend the majority of his time trying to use game theory to determine which girls to bang!

Jaxom's narrative arc through this book:

Other thoughts:

- I think the worst thing about this book is that Jaxom, who receives every single other character's unfettered goodwill, is pretty nasty about the other main characters who show up. Piemur has a bad showing in Cove Hold because he won't stop talking about how hard it is to walk all over the Southern Continent. I'm not sure if Jaxom remembers, but Piemur is only a quasi-Harper with no family who has spent months tramping through the wilderness alone, so of course he reacts this way to the southern intrusion.

- Mirrim's character is assassinated for absolutely no reason at all. Everyone finds her annoying. Guess what! Mirrim is an orphan and the first woman to ride a green dragon in decades or whatever. Incredible that everyone prioritizes Jaxom's feelings over Mirrim.

- The Menolly and Robinton scene on the boat going south !

- F'lar's main function in any Pern book is a climactic knife fight, and I'm not mad about it ... though you would think that, at this point, Fandarel would outfit him with some kind of super-weapon.

The Harper Hall trilogy is the best part of the Pern series, no question. The White Dragon is where things start to go haywire. I am moving on to All the Weyrs of Pern simply so I can summarize the plot to Matt over dinner.
Profile Image for Amita.
75 reviews1 follower
April 30, 2013
No extra points in the rating for the awesome dragons and unique world this time around. The shine of Pern has worn off, and all that's left is the author's writing. In that regard, this book was pretty lackluster.

I had a lot of hope for Jaxom and Ruth after Dragonquest. I was pretty much completely disappointed. Jaxom is a whiny, bratty kid that I had absolutely no investment in. In fact, I actively want him to fail. Characters that are special and wonderful at everything just for the sake of it annoy me, and McCaffrey seems to be frequently guilty of this. Jaxom is a Lord Holder AND a dragon rider AND super smart and daring and skilled and blah blah. How was all this getting developed since most of his established history as a youth is him being coddled by the overbearing Lytol? His character development was less development than abrupt change. He starts off rather meek, unwilling to assert himself and letting his caretakers fuss over him and his peers tease him. Then one day he throws a hissy fit, and suddenly everyone realizes he's actually a ~man~ and ready for all sorts of responsibilities that they pile on. Because hissy fits are totally the adult way to handle things. He's now ready to fly his dragon, and learn about Hold affairs, and train in all the Craft halls, and also have time to secretly train his dragon and take it upon himself to save the day. He constantly does stupid and reckless things, but instead of being told off, he's praised for being so adventurous and doted on by everyone as he recovers.

His love interests are completely undeveloped and actually rather insulting. First he only wants girl A to use as an alibi, then he kind of likes girl A because she strokes his ego (and more than his ego, if you know what I mean) so he uses her for more than just an alibi, then he completely ignores girl A and doesn't bother to talk to her again (seriously, he casually mentions her a few times, but no actual interactions or attempts at communication for the rest of the book) at all after months away and a near-death experience because suddenly he's in love with girl B for no reason except her voice is pretty. ??? Sure. Even better, when he can't manage to get girl B alone, he contemplates using girl A again. Real Romeo, there.

Ruth is completely uneventful too - apparently the only unique thing about being the only white dragon ever is that fire lizards adore him, and he isn't interested in mating. Hardly worth all the build up of him being so special. We never even learn WHY he's white, or if there's any precedent for him. Unsatisfying follow through here.

A few saving graces character-wise in this book: Master Robinton and Menolly. As I understand it, they are the main characters of the Harper Hall trilogy, so maybe those books will be more interesting for me - but then I was excited about Jaxom until McCaffrey actually wrote him as a main character. Regardless, Robinton seems to be the only rational person on Pern (except when it comes to his health), and Menolly is rather clever and funny. The glimpses of Brekke were also great, and I wish she could have been developed more. She had a lot of untapped potential, both in her ability to communicate with all dragons and how she dealt with the loss of her own.

Plot-wise, this book has a lot of the same problems that the first two did, in that there doesn't seem to be a solid issue building up to any sort of climax, and no resolution. I was more willing to ignore it in the first two books, but this is the last in a trilogy, so I expected a little more oomph. Mostly the trilogy seems to be about discovering things about dragons or the planet that they mostly had forgotten in the passing of time. Which is fine, but could have included a little more plot structure to keep the reader entertained. Instead it just comes off like a bunch of set up for the next generation to deal with. Like, well now we've got the grubs, and all the Southern continent to explore and we know Thread comes from the Red Star - you guys take it from here! I know these are just three books in a huge collection, but a little payoff would be nice.
Profile Image for notyourmonkey.
342 reviews40 followers
January 31, 2009
Okay, wow, I had forgotten how unpleasant I find Jaxom about half the time. He's a sympathetic character in that he gets to do all this cool stuff, but the internal monologue and motivations McCaffrey gives him are kind of tool-y. His distress over having no one real place where he fits is deeply appealing, but the way he whines about it is not.

Also, hi dodgy gender issues, how I didn't miss you! They're prevalent enough in the Lessa books and the Menolly books, almost negligible in Piemur's book, but here, where you're deeply wedged into Jaxom's brain, they're even worse. His treatment of Corana, the holder girl he first takes up with in order to have a cover for training Ruth to chew firestone, is abysmal. First he almost-forces her when he's caught up in the mating tensions of the green at Fort (which is brushed away when Ruth says but she liked it), then Jaxom is glad to have his attachment to Sharra as an acceptable excuse for ditching her, except for when Sharra doesn't immediately succumb to his charms(?), he considers seeking out Corana "for a little relief", if only in idle contemplation. I suppose that's some of the class wonkiness in these books coming out, too (Sharra is not for 'relief' because she's Toric's sister, but Corana's father is beholden to Jaxom, so that's okay!), but the whole thing is deeply unpleasant.

And don't even get me started on the whole Jaxom-Menolly thing, or Jaxom and Piemur snitting over Sharra, or poor freakin' Mirrim, who has a careless tongue but has had just as rough a deal as Jaxom but is comstantly slagged on in all these books.

Still, though. Still. Like with all these books, above and beyond some of the crappy characters and weird class structure and hopefully-outdated views on women, they are so bloody compelling. Like Pern, like Valdemar, I suppose. There remains something inherently attractive about a magical being choosing you and you alone to be their special friend.

I do love the mixing and merging of Craft and Hold and Weyr in this book, as the culmination of the whole trilogy. Or, really, what I consider the six original Pern books - the Dragonrider and Dragonsinger trilogies. I'm glad there's All the Weyrs of Pern that comes after it, but really this is the close of the heart of Pernese canon for me.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jerry.
4,694 reviews63 followers
July 14, 2020
The White Dragon wraps up the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy quite neatly; however, pretty much everyone knows that it isn't the end for Pern. Although the series got off to a slightly rough start, it actually got much better as it went on. If you're a fan of science fiction, and you've never read anything by Anne McCaffrey, what are you waiting for? Give her books a chance!
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,678 followers
August 6, 2016
Oh, my gosh. I read this over and over in sixth grade, giggling naughtily all the while. Good grief, Jaxom and that buxom farmer's sister!

I think I read this before any of the other Pern books, though I had read DRAGONSINGER. I loved Ruth, and the idea of a dragon who was just big enough to ride, but small enough to be kept at home.
Profile Image for Nikola Pavlovic.
284 reviews42 followers
November 17, 2021
I dalje mislim da je druga knjiga najbolja, isto tako i prekretnica u ovom serijalu.
Izvela ga je na dobar smer i dala mu novu dimenziju i dubinu.
Ova treca knjiga sa uspehom nastavlja da nam prikazuje vrtoglave, slobodno mogu reci politicke obrte i novonastale situacije u kojima se Pern kao kontinent nalazi. Toj vrsti zapleta se kao glavni obrazac ove knjige prikljucuju i dobro opisani istrazuvacki odnosno avanturisticki delovi koji su i srz poslednje knjige Zmajeva Jahaca Perna.
Zamerke na ovo delo su nedostatak tenzije, stvarnog problema ili krize. Ova treca knjiga je serijal okrenula u smeru mladjih citalaca i svakako bih ovu trilogiju preporucio svima koji tek ulaze u vode fantastike. Ni u jednom trenutku nije previse jednostavan ili isprazan a sa druge strane nije ni otisao u smeru nekih puno ozbiljnijihh serijala zanra,
Sve u svemu jedna velka 4 (cetvorka) za Zmajeve Jahace Perna.
Profile Image for Susan Kennedy.
271 reviews9 followers
November 8, 2018
Another great story of Pern. This one focuses on Jaxom, the Lord Holder of Ruatha and his white dragon, Ruth.

You learn a lot more of Jaxom and those he interacts with. You learn of his friendships and how he struggles with becoming Lord. His relationship with his dragon is wonderful and they make a great team. They take on some interesting endeavors that have you cheering them on. He is a great character and he interacts with other characters that I have grown to love through this series, like Menolly and Masterharper Robinton.

This is another fantastic book in this series.
Profile Image for Starling.
179 reviews
August 9, 2010
This is basically a review of the three books that make up the trilogy. There actually was a book between books two and three that I'm not counting, but which do introduce several characters in this book, but I'm not counting it as one of the main books because that book was originally published as YA and it wasn't available at my local library.

I prefer to review the books as they exist, and not the book I'd wished someone had written. I also think that if a book is part of a series that is more than 40 years old, expecting it to follow conventions of the 21st Century is silly.

I've just finished re-reading all three books. I gave all three of them four stars because even with some reservations about the books, I was pulled into reading them one after another and right now! That bit of magic still exists, and it isn't just that this was a favorite series way back when.

One thing that any SF book of that era required was levels of world building that most series don't currently have. I'm pretty sure McCaffrey could have answered questions as to WHY any bit of Pern's culture existed, and in fact there are stories about most of those answers. And the series is SF and not Fantasy because there are stories about how Pern was settled, why Pern was abandoned by it technological parents, and even how the dragons got to be the size they needed to be to fight Thread. Back when these books were written the difference between SF and Fantasy was the ability to explain how things that looked like a fantasy were arrived at.

My biggest reservation always was that her villains are just too one dementionable. They exist only so the hero or heroine can fight against them. Personally I prefer that my hero fight against people and things that are more real.

Outside of that it was a fun read and I do recommend all three books.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,667 reviews242 followers
November 5, 2020
I my memory this is my favourite Pern book, closely followed by the Haperhall books. There is a lot more going on than I remembered. Or that I thought of happening in another book of the series. This is definitely a worthwhile refresher.

We finally get to read more about my favourite dragon Ruth and about a ton of fire-lizards. Plus there is adventure, a conspiracy and plenty of exploring of the Southern continent and the past. Jaxom has to come to terms with his double role of Lord Holder and Dragonrider. Although he isn‘t allowed to be either and chafes at the restrictions put upon him. In the meantime Ruth grows and matures in unexpected ways.

F‘lar and Lessa are in the sidelines in this storyline and we get to see more of the characters from the Harperhall novels. Which makes me wonder why this book was put into a collected edition with the first two books of the series, although the three Harperhall novels are set before it chronologically. But I guess this way you come full circle with all of the issues that are raised in Dragonflight and Dragonquest and the various plotlines are tied up neatly.

McCaffrey is still not very good at writing love scenes in this and we are still dealing with antiquated gender roles. But then, this is set in a medieval, feudal society, so that actually fits. The women do all the cooking and act as servants to the men, the actual servants are faceless drudges (I always deeply disliked that term), the farmers are beholden to their lords and the droit-de-seigneur is alive and well. Jaxom‘s dealings with Corana are not stellar, but he is a product of the society he grew up in.

Is this still my favourite? I think it is neck to neck with Dragonquest, which has a more focussed and streamlined plot. The White Dragon is longer and more meandering, with several highpoints. This could have easily been several novellas, stuck together.


Here is the chronological order of the current timeline and the books I plan to re-read:

Dragonflight — re-read in September 2020
Dragonquest — re-read in October 2020

Dragonsong —> Harperhall, plan to read after White Dragon
Dragonsinger —> Harperhall, dito
Dragondrums —> Harperhall, dito

The Renegades of Pern — I might skip this one, it doesn‘t sound essential to the main plotline.
The White Dragon — re-read in November 2020
All The Weyrs of Pern
The Dolphins of Pern
The Skies of Pern


I never before realized that the Harperhall books are aimed at a different age group, aka YA. None of those books released in the years 2000+ are part of my planned read above. I‘ll decide after reading those, if I will pick up the newer offerings, co-written with Todd McCaffrey (set before Dragonflight).

What I wrote in 2013:

My all-time-favourite Pern novel. The ultimate underdogs of Pern. The rider should never have become a rider and the little dragon was a discard from the get-go. So they stick it to all of them and show the finger to those snobby other riders, dragons and assorted nobility...
Profile Image for Bev.
2,957 reviews265 followers
January 13, 2013
I have said this before and I still think it's true, there are some books that are meant to be read at certain times. And if you miss that particular time, then they just won't do it for you the way they might have. I suspect that The White Dragon is just such a book. I have found, and it seems to be more often the case with science fiction/fantasy novels, that I seem to have missed the (space) boat with McCaffrey's novel. Back in the 80s, when I was in the midst of my science fiction binge, my best friend got me Dragonflight, the first in the Pern series, and I loved it. I immediately grabbed up the next Pern book I could find (this one) and put it on the shelf....and got distracted and never read it--till now.

Which leads me to my first question. If I read Dragonflight now, would I discover that it too has no real storyline? Because as far as I can tell, The White Dragon doesn't. We have young Lord Jaxom, last of the Ruatha Hold bloodline, who whines and carries on about how nobody treats him like a Lord and yet he's not allowed to be a real dragonrider even though he's got a dragon--albeit an unusual, under-sized one. And he goes off and teaches his dragon to fly and destroy the deadly Threads in secret. And he has sex along the way. And, oh---this is a good one, his dragon participates in the sex too (No, NOT physically, but he loves right along with Jaxom and his lady-friends....say what? A dragon peeping tom.). And he flits here and he flits there and he saves a dragon egg and finds where the ancient men used to be and....well, it's all this major jumble. And there's no real struggle, no real plot points, and no real resolution. It all just kind of rambles to a close.

Granted, I didn't read every word on every page--mainly because I was not interested and also because when I did I couldn't see that it mattered a whole heaping bunch. And maybe you've noticed that my review style has changed here and my writing isn't exactly full of coherent thoughts? Yeah, we'll blame that on side-effects.

The best part (and what makes this a two-star book instead of a one-star book) is the relationship between Jaxom and his white dragon Ruth--with most of the points going to Ruth. Ruth has a very well-defined personality and I like the way he calms Jaxom down when he (Jaxom) gets off on his "why are they treating me this way?!" jags. I would have enjoyed this book a lot more if there had been more focus on Jaxom and Ruth.

This was first posted on my blog My Reader's Block. Please request permission before reposting. Thanks.
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,847 reviews399 followers
October 20, 2014
10/2014 Reread. The continuing adventure with Don to rediscover Pern.

I love Ruth. I love Jaxom.
They are pleased to see us in the air together. Ramoth and Mnementh are very happy to see you on my back at last. I am very happy. Are you happier now?
And fire lizards!

I forgot how jam-packed the Pern stories were. Ruth and Jaxom's maturation is only a small portion of what happens as the politics expand, problems inflate and then are resolved, but really the bond between the two is what drove the book for me.

The explorations of the southern continent. The discovery of the Dawn Sisters and the connection to the past is great. F'lar and the others are determined to leave the weyrs in a much better position after the Pass than they entered it. As usual, the adept statesmanship and Robinton's skills are front and center again.

I look forward the the Harper Hall trilogy and more details on Robinton and Menolly.
“I loved you first, Master.”

Favorite quote:
You can, you know, be all and more, without being disloyal to anyone, or yourself.”
Profile Image for Jon.
833 reviews253 followers
November 11, 2008
As much as I loved the first two books of the Dragonriders of Pern series, The White Dragon remains my favorite. And not because of Jaxom, whom I never liked as a lead character/protagonist. Ruth was my favorite character. Ruth, the stunted runt totally unique White Dragon.

The archaeological discoveries on the Southern Continent at the original landing site are the most memorable and compelling parts of this installment in the saga of Pern. And Ruth's abilities to manipulate time and space are unparalleled in the evolution of the dragons.

As with most of McCaffrey's novels, I tend to skip over the romantic story lines as they bore me to tears. Rarely does she write a romantic subplot that engages me. And her attempts at jealous revenge subplots also grates on me.

But that aside, I enjoy the early Pern novels, and this one, along with Dragonsong are my favorites.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tanja.
261 reviews17 followers
August 29, 2019
Kakvo razočarenje! Očikivala sam toliko od Jaksoma i Rut, ali Jaksom ispade razmaženo derle koje stalno cvili i gunđa kako stvari nisu fer, dok se jedno jutro u naletu besa ne izviče na sve prisutne i oni shvate kako je on sada muškarac. Ma daj…
Rut je takodje prilično nezanimljim, jedina stvar koja ga razlikuje od drugih zmajeva je što nije zainteresovan za parenje i što ga vatreni gušteri obožavaju, a delovalo je da će biti od presudnog značaja za serijal „Dragonriders of Pern”.

Radnja je razvučena, spora i nepovezana. Jednostavno, ovo nije zadovoljavajuči kraj tiologije.
Profile Image for Oleksandr Zholud.
1,116 reviews112 followers
November 29, 2022
This is the third volume in the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. I read it as a part of the reading challenge at Hugo & Nebula Awards: Best Novels group because three of the books in the series were nominated for Hugo Award.

This story starts less than two years after the ending of Dragonquest and is chiefly concerned with Jaxom, the young lord of Ruatha and his White dragon Ruth. White dragons have never before grown up to maturity, so after the hatchling chose Jaxom, he remained the lord and not taken as a rider. However, Rush is not a weak albino and while on a smaller side, he grew up fine. Moreover, “He’s…more…all dragon shades than the lack of any,” N’ton continued. He slanted one hand against the angle of Ruth’s heavily muscled shoulder, then cocked his head as he stared at the powerful hindquarters. “Beautifully proportioned, too. He may be small, Jaxom, but he’s a fine-looking fellow!”

So, while Ruth is growing up and preparing for the first ride with Jaxom, there is a conflict with old-timers, who were sent away to the Southern Continent and now facing extinction because their dragon queen is too old to lay eggs. There will be more discoveries of the tech of ancestors, more knowledge about the world as well as the return of old characters.

Overall, the story is interesting but there are too many minor characters and sometimes it is hard to follow who is who.

Profile Image for Jason.
94 reviews40 followers
April 29, 2015
Jesus - has McCaffrey never heard of a plot? I mean, what is she waiting for, her grand finale? Forget the characterization of Jaxom that everyone's complaining about (he's barely sketched in enough to even be called a character) and this strange fetish she has for men who force themselves on women - let's just stick to the basic level of narrative, of plot mechanics, of conflict and a focused through line. The biggest problem with this book is that, for hundreds of pages, basically NOTHING HAPPENS. There is no plot. There is no guiding thread, no overarching conflict. Some stuff happens, of no particular consequence, and then, after a few pages or chapters of needless and empty dialogue between flat and interchangeable characters, something else happens, unrelated to the first happening, and the pattern repeats. How is this a book? How is this a trilogy? It doesn't even have a story. You know the old play 6 Characters in Search of an Author? This is A Well-Realized World in Search of a Story.

McCaffrey has clearly invented a compelling idea for a world. Weyrs and Holds and Dragonriders and a mysterious continent to the South peopled by disgruntled warriors from the past...random mindless attacks from an orbiting red planet...Fire Lizards with their dreams and visions from collective species memory....strange tools and technologies left behind by the original settlers, now only being rediscovered....sounds fascinating, doesn't it? Sounds like a real epic reading experience.

But what the hell? This is the strangest damn read of my life. Never before have I seen such a surreal discrepancy between heights of imagination and depths of ineptitude in the construction of fiction. Bits and pieces of world-building are sprinkled throughout an otherwise interminable series of unconnected and unimportant events, given no shape or texture or life. The writing is incredibly mediocre, and inexplicably devoid of incident. It's just so damn talky. And the talk is petty and casual and expositional. How did this ever invite such passionate devotion from readers? How did this ever get nominated for Hugo Awards? More to the point, how did this ever get published?

I'm done with Pern. People who love this, I am willing to bet, discovered these books when they were teenagers. Fair enough. Kids love things for different reasons than adults do. But I just read them now, and I am not a teenager, and I can tell you this: skip them. I've struggled through 3 books now, and I kept telling myself there were enough hints of great things to continue, but there really weren't. Now, that is all that I am left with - hints of it. These books are sometimes involving for, like, 10 or 15 pages in a row, and you say, "Hey, it's finally coming to life!" and then it doesn't, and nothing happens, and you get disappointed like this again and again and again. That, I think, is the great tragedy of these books, and probably McCaffrey's career. She had a wonderful imagination, there is no question about that, but she had insufficient narrative skill to properly utilize it, and simply not enough ideas for STORY.

This makes me sad, because the world-building, the sketch for this place, is undeniably memorable and worthwhile. But this, unfortunately, is a story about dragons that never takes flight.
Profile Image for Laura Lemay.
138 reviews7 followers
August 31, 2016
After Anne Mcaffrey died late 2011 I rooted around in my bookshelves for all my old pern paperbacks from the early 80's. I was utterly obsessed with these books when I was a young teenager, and they were extremely formative in my own history as a writer. The first novel I ever wrote -- longhand, in mead spiralbound notebooks -- was a thin knockoff of Dragonflight (I seem to remember it had unicorns, but I'm so embarrassed by that book I haven't managed to actually read enough of it to check).

I reread all three books in the first Pern trilogy because I was curious to see if they held up to my very fond memories of them. Sadly the answer was no. Sometimes its best to let your fond childhood memories remain memories. :(

(I've duplicated this review across all three books).

Dragonflight: The earliest of the Pern books and the most problematic. It's a fast read and an OK story, but...ugh. My memories of the book were that it was one of the few SF books at the time that revolved around a strong female lead, one that I could identify and aspire to when I was 13. I was appalled to discover on reread that the gender politics are solidly prefeminist and really, really icky. And the writing is terrible -- terrible characters, terrible descriptions, too many similar confusing names, to many shift of POV. I was ashamed for my younger self for liking this book so much.

Dragonquest: Similar gender issues in this book to the previous, but better writing and a really compelling plot. I ripped through the book in a few hours. Not great art, but good storytelling. The best of the three.

The White Dragon: I didn't realize that the entire Harper Hall trilogy is supposed to take place in between Dragonquest and TWD, and I should have read those before starting this one. I didn't think much of this book; it felt much more leisurely than the fast-paced plotting of Dragonquest, with many more characters and threads (heh) and not a lot of narrative tensions. Jaxom as a character didn't much appeal to me, and it was just as gross to see the wierd gender politics of Pern from the male point of view. The big reveal as to the origins of Pern seems a sort of deus ex machina letdown (although the extended prologues always explained this, it was never a big part of the plot). It just didn't feel like a satisfying conclusion to me, and after reading this book I just felt all dragonned out.

Also as a side note, everyone is always striding in these books. F'lar strode in to the room! F'nor strode out of the weyr! I mentioned it to my husband about 2/3rds through TWD and then I couldn't help laughing about it every time the word showed up after that. You could make a drinking game out of it and get truly pissed indeed.
Profile Image for William Richards.
Author 2 books16 followers
May 22, 2014
The old saying goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover." I can still remember that summer day when I spotted the Michael Whelan cover on "The White Dragon" and how it caught my eye. I remember picking it up, reading the blurb on the back cover and deciding I wanted to read it. I was fourteen-years old and I liked that the protagonist was around my age. It was the last book of the Dragonriders of Pern series that introduced me to McCaffrey's world.

But it was the story inside that cover that absolutely transfixed me! Easily, this ranks as one of my all-time favorite reads. I read the book so many times, the cover wore out and I had to keep the book held together with cellophane tape! I greatly enjoyed McCaffrey's style of writing and the incredible world she created.

The story follows the life of young Lord Jaxom of Ruatha after impressing the white dragon, Ruth; a runt of a dragon compared to others. How he finds himself caught between two worlds: the life of a dragonrider and that of a Lord Holder, never quite fitting in with either. When a shocking crime is committed, Jaxom has to grow up quickly and face his responsibilities or the world of Pern could be plunged into war. While trying to avert dragonrider fighting against dragonrider, Jaxom uncovers a secret about the world of Pern that no one suspected…
Profile Image for Trike.
1,526 reviews162 followers
July 21, 2023
July 2023 re-read: I first read this book 45 years ago(!), almost to the day, and I have loved it ever since. Of all the hundreds of books I’ve read with thousands of characters, many of those characters I’ve enjoyed and admired, or that I’ve identified with, or merely thought were cool, Jaxom of Pern is the only one I’ve ever wanted to *be*. To have adventures while riding your very own dragon just causes my imagination to take flight.

And this book has it all: fighting an existential menace like the alien Thread falling from the menacing Red Star, soaring aloft on dragonback, internecine politics, some romance of the non-graphic kind, conflict between various factions, including a duel to the death, nick-of-time rescues, exploratiom, designing architecture, even archeology… it really covers a lot of ground. Plus time travel! It’s amazing how much McCaffrey packs into this story.

Not to mention that Michael Whelan painted one of the all-time great covers for this.


Profile Image for Paradoxical.
351 reviews35 followers
March 27, 2011
Hm, I don't remember Jaxom being so irritating before (haha). He whines and groans and talks a lot about how unfair things are, and yes, he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but it doesn't stop me from wanting to smack him upside the head a few times. It also doesn't help that his romantic attachments bore me to death, and that there is no rhyme or reason for Sharra.

The plot meandered and it felt rather slow overall. What shined, however, is the relationship between Ruth and Jaxom and that's pretty much what gets me about the Pern series. Dragons + humans + bonding = omg yes please. No real rhyme or reason--I just like it. Still, there weren't as many just Jaxom and Ruth scenes as I would have liked, and the huge emphasis on the political plot was, well, rather boring. I don't mind political intrigue, actually, I rather like reading it, but the scenarios that McCaffrey presents are just dull for me. The ending felt rather weak and there was no excitement there, it was rather bland throughout the book.

2 stars. I really wanted to give it a better score seeing how much I enjoyed these books when I was younger, but rereading them just makes me sigh now.
Profile Image for Joan.
2,030 reviews
February 17, 2022
This is one of my favorites of the series. Ruth and his rider are just plain nice people. Both are disabled in their own way. Ruth is the only white dragon on the planet Pern and Jaxom was born early from a mother who died at the time of his birth, and whose father died a short time later, making him the lord of Ruatha as an infant. Both will have to prove themselves to the humans of Pern. The dragons accept them as they are. This is a classic coming of age novel in that Jaxom needs to figure out who he is and what are his talents for the life he decides to pursue. Although, that part wasn't at issue. Jaxom was destined to be Lord of Ruatha from his birth and he never really questioned that, even if others did. He also, through impetuousness, entered a grouping that no one had seriously considered for him at all. How to reconcile those disparate parts of his life into a smooth whole? More of Pern's history comes to light in this book, in part, due to Jaxom and Ruth. Addendum: I've been taking a much needed break from my life by reading this trilogy, the original series that comprised this marvelous fantasy world. I guess now I'll go back to "real" pandemic life again. Sigh....
Profile Image for Cass.
488 reviews120 followers
June 19, 2011
Okay this is the final book I have read in my recent Pern binge. Definetly one of the best books in the series, though it may be a bit confusing as a first read as it requires a knowledge of the personalities of the major players on Pern.

Anne McCaffrey has written some great scenes into the story. I particular love reading as Jaxom develops from a boy into a man and into his role as Lord of Ruatha.
Profile Image for Karen’s Library.
1,093 reviews167 followers
April 19, 2017
I think The White Dragon is my favorite of The Dragonriders of Pern trilogy. In this story. Jaxom, Lord Holder of Ruatha, has impressed Ruth, the only white dragon in existence. Ruth is smaller than a typical dragon, but demonstrates special abilities and more intelligence than a normal dragon.

In The White Dragon, more is discovered about the original colonists of Pern. And I'm off to continue my binge re-read of the Pern books! I do this every time!
Profile Image for Badseedgirl.
1,263 reviews67 followers
November 7, 2017
With this book, I have completed the original 3-book "Dragon Riders of Pern" series. This was definitely not what I thought is was going to be. I will go on and read other series someday, but what I will say is, if you like stories about dragons this is the series for you.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,898 reviews378 followers
June 30, 2017
Summer Fantasy Fest read #25

I think many of the ya audience would find the Ruth the white dragon dynamic fitting. He's just not into it. And that's ok. He's absolutely lovely.
Profile Image for Tinnean.
Author 78 books434 followers
February 4, 2018
This was my favorite of the first three Pern books. I loved Jaxom and Ruth, and the scene where the dragons keep Robinton from leaving always has me in tears. It was a fun way to spend the day.
Profile Image for Sotiris Karaiskos.
1,178 reviews89 followers
December 12, 2017
As in the previous book (in chronological order) of this series - Dragondrums - this book supposed to be the last of a trilogy but is actually more a stand-alone novel. Also like the previous book the protagonist is an angry teen thirsty for adult admission and hungry for sex, as most teenagers I think. Of course, this teen is not an ordinary one as he is having many important responsibilities, to which he adds even more as he tends to get involved where he does not have to. With his ally the white dragon, however, he has all the right tools to save the world from trouble and get a girl. An interestingly enough book in which we are also learning about Pern's past. On the other hand, however, I can not say that I found the book particularly exciting, although I definitely find it interesting and definitely better than the previous one I read, I do not put a 4 only for some minor details.
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,813 reviews315 followers
August 5, 2019
So Much Potential, So Little Direction
5 August 2019

A part of me was thinking that maybe I am getting a little too old to be able to focus on books, or that maybe the fact that I have a lot of other things to do meant that I really couldn’t get into this book as I could other books. Well, maybe it is the case that I probably shouldn’t be actually blaming myself because the book is, well, boring. I guess I probably should stick to that last bit because I know that if I like a book then I really get sucked into it, and what to read it until the end, and then you have this one.

Yeah, it really felt like that basically nothing happened. In fact, the book really didn’t seem to be going anywhere and the ending was so, well, bland, that I couldn’t believe that I had spent the time that I had actually reading it. Okay, it isn’t that the writing’s bad, it is just that it really felt as if this story had no plot whatsoever, beyond that of some kid who happens to have a white dragon (the only one in existence), and they had decided that they would go and explore the Southern Continent.

Okay, there is some lover’s twist in this story, but I really don’t get all that caught up with them. Then again, I do have this appreciation for stories where the protagonists are uncovering their past, and learning new things about their culture, and their history. This is sort of the case here, and at times, such as the stars that basically hung in the sky and didn’t move , did grab me, but it honestly it didn’t really keep me interested for all that long before I started drifting off with boredom again, especially since numerous other times I had basically almost lost interest (and a part of me still insists on finishing every book that I read).

I guess the problem with this book is that there is just so much potential, but that potential, well, seems to go absolutely nowhere. Yeah, a part of me was hoping that this book turned out to be better than what it was, namely because there is so much hype about McCaffrey, and her dragons. However, it turns out that, well, that the books are basically that – overrated. It is a bit of a shame, at least in my opion, because as I mentioned, this book, and the concepts, did have a lot of potential, it is just that they, in the end, went nowhere.
Profile Image for Punk.
1,509 reviews250 followers
August 14, 2011
Fantasy. More dragonriding with some archeology thrown in for color and the first appearance by a female green dragonrider. Except the text calls her a "dragon girl" and she doesn't get the honorific apostrophe like the men do and also no one likes her very much because she's bitchy. We also get our first female crafter, a harper, but she's the appropriate combination of bossy and nurturing and everybody loves her. If, on Pern, you are female and only bossy or only nurturing, then you're out of luck; men will not find you appealing.

Our hero this time is Jaxom, rider of the white dragon Ruth. Jaxom manages to have sex with women several times without characterizing it as rape. For this series, this is progress. However, it could be argued that Jaxom isn't a real man by the rules of his society because he's not a full dragonrider (no apostrophe, like a girl) and his dragon is immature which means he'll never be driven to have sex with another rider; several characters alluded as much, including the dragon girl no one likes. So he's not capable of rape because he's not a real man. Look, I don't make the rules! It's just what the book could be saying! It's not like it's been all that responsible about gender or sexual politics so far.

The plot in this one has a big hole after the first chapter. The second chapter's like, A YEAR LATER AFTER THE HARPER RETURNS FROM HIS DISASTROUS SEA VOYAGE THAT NO ONE TOLD YOU ABOUT BUT DON'T WORRY HE'S RECOVERED FROM THIS VAGUE REFERENCE TO AN ILLNESS. So that's dumb. Also there's a big lull in the middle where Jaxom is sick and then recuperating. The pacing's not great. At some point I lost track of what the point even was. For a while I was looking forward to learning the mystery behind the White Dragon; surely with the way the fire lizards treated him, he must be some amazing genetic throwback, but let's say I was disappointed on that front.

Three stars. I liked Ruth and Jaxom and watching them grow up, and I liked exploring the southern continent, but the pacing was just weird. I think I'm done with Pern for now, unless anyone has a favorite book from the other passes.

eBook: So much better than the previous two in this series by the same publisher. It still had errors, but not nearly as many. No cover.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,003 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.