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Pursuing her dream to be a Harper of Pern, Menolly studies under the Masterharper learning that more is required than a facility with music and a clever way with words.

288 pages, Paperback

First published February 1, 1977

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About the author

Anne McCaffrey

405 books6,946 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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 992 reviews
Profile Image for Sebastien Castell.
Author 44 books4,090 followers
February 9, 2017
I won't go into depth as this is a book I've read several times since first encountering it as a teenager ages ago and there are literally hundreds of detailed reviews. One thing that inspires me about Dragonsinger, though, is that it doesn't follow the contemporary form of having everything go wrong for the main character all the way through until the end. In contrast, Menolly actually succeeds in almost every chapter--a victory for her shared with the reader--and yet somehow McCaffrey still made the drama feel genuine throughout.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 29 books5,609 followers
August 6, 2016
My favorite of the Harper Hall books! There's something so satisfying about Menolly, who went through hell in the first book, being treated like a princess, and shown around the Harper Hall. Getting new clothes, meeting new friends, finding out that her scarred hand will heal . . . just so satisfying!
Profile Image for Janni.
Author 41 books444 followers
December 21, 2008
Dragonsinger is very much one of those books that, while on the surface about music--Menolly, the protagonist, is a young musician who's just gotten the chance to train professionally, essentially, after earlier being told she had no right to play at all--is really about pursuing any art.

Dragonsinger falls a bit more strongly toward believing that artists are somehow a little different than others, something I'm not convinced of. But mostly it gets things right, and there's one thing I noticed this time that I hadn't really before: Menolly is a bit self-depreciating about her music at first, because she's been told for so long it wasn't worth much. So when she also claims her music isn't very good, and keeps pointing to all the things she needs to learn--in earlier readings I thought it unwarranted modesty, a lack of acceptance of her own skill.

But this reading, I think I get it more: Menolly isn't modest because she fails to accept her own skill. She's modest precisely because of that skill--she's so good, she can see all she has to learn, while a lesser musician, who couldn't see all Menolly can, would be more likely to accept his playing as pretty good. Menolly's modesty isn't a denial of her skill; it's a direct consequence of it.

I find myself pondering now whether believing without reservation that you're good at a craft is beginner territory, and whether doubts--or at least a sense of still having a lot to learn--is a sign of having gained some amount of skill, rather than of lacking it.

Dragonsinger is also very much about how even when you have things to learn, though, that doesn't mean your work lacks merit, or can't be enjoyed even in its imperfect state--or that those imperfections will always even get in the way of what the work is trying to do. Which is something Menolly does still have to learn: that her work may not be perfect, that she may have things to learn, but that doesn't mean her current creations are unworthy of being loved by others.
Profile Image for Susan Kennedy.
271 reviews9 followers
November 8, 2018
This is the second book in the Harper Hall Trilogy and it follows Menolly as she comes to the Harper Hall to become and apprentice.

I absolutely love this character. She has been through so much with a father who would hold her back from music because she is a girl. She is so talented in music and as a song writer that it is such a shame. They did whatever they could to hamper her dream of music. Then, the Masterharper of Pern finds her after looking for the one that has written the songs that are so loved. She is taken as Masterharper Robinton's apprentice.

As she comes to the Harper Hall, she is not accepted well by the other girls. She is more talented than them, she outranks them and she has nine fire lizards. So they are cruel as girls will be. Menolly takes everything in stride even though she is modest and often times questions when good things happen to her. The harpers all see how talented she is. This book takes you on her first week in the harper hall with all her troubles and new friendships and how she grows. Soon, she realizes she does belong and in the end is made a Journeyman. It is a well deserved honor.

These are such fantastic books and Menolly is such a great character.
Profile Image for Jerry.
4,631 reviews57 followers
September 6, 2022
Another enthralling science fiction work from the late, great Anne McCaffrey.
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,597 reviews238 followers
December 15, 2021
As a teenager in the 80s I read this many, many times. The Harper trilogy books belonged to my favourite books in that decade, together with The White Dragon. Menolly has always been my favourite character, besides Robinton.

This book picks up right after Dragonsong and I recommend reading them back to back. Menolly arrives at the Harper Hall and learns what it means to be a harper. She makes friends and enemies and finds her place in the world of Pern.
Profile Image for Harold Ogle.
309 reviews43 followers
December 20, 2013
I think it’s hard for modern readers to imagine the cultural landscape back before fantasy became commonplace and widely accepted. Back when McCaffrey wrote this, before Star Wars, there was very little presence of fantasy in pop culture. Sure, there was plenty of good fantasy to read if you knew where to look, but for most of the general populace, awareness of fantasy was limited to The Lord of the Rings, which had been published twenty years earlier. So when McCaffrey published her Pern novels, they took the world by storm. Each book lived on the bestseller lists; every home had a copy; the Pern novels were used to launch the kind of marketing juggernaut that’s expected today but which was astonishing at the time. Everywhere I went, growing up, Pern and Lord of the Rings merchandise abounded. Calendars, atlases, video games, lunch boxes, T-shirts, posters, costumes, toys, stuffed animals: there seemed no amount of the stuff that could satisfy the public appetite for Pern materials. I have to admit, I was turned off and intimidated by all the hype, and so it was this long before I got around to reading them.

I’m glad I did, at last. It is a good read, even if the break between the first and second books seems arbitrary. I’ve said many times in the past that the best way to appreciate books in a series is to space them out with plenty of time between one book/episode/installment/issue and the next. Reading series installments back-to-back can often lead to dissatisfaction with voice, style, and even thematic changes, as the author has changed in the time it took between writing different volumes. That said, it’s always interesting to read a book that begins immediately where the last book left off, without any break at all. I’m left wondering whether the books were actually written as a single volume that was then split into parts by the publisher, as with Hyperion and The Lord of the Rings. So it is here: Dragonsinger picks up the narrative of Dragonsong without any pause more than a paragraph break. I actually found this a bit refreshing, as it also means that the book makes no attempt to present “our story so far:” if you haven’t read Dragonsong before this, you’re out of luck. There are no explanations of setting, background, personality or appearance of characters from the first book, or anything else. I loved that.

The break between novels does make some sense, if you can accept the premise that a break was needed at all. Our heroine, Menolly, was isolated and on her own in the first book. It was almost a Robinson Crusoe story of survival against the elements, ending with her joyous acceptance back into society. This book is about school, and as such it somewhat feels like a precursor to Harry Potter and all its imitators, if they were set in a music college in a medieval setting...essentially a school for bards. While there is no prophecy presaging Menolly’s arrival (hallelujah!), she is possessed of preternatural gifts: both an amazing musician and a tamer of fire lizards. But this is not a story about magic: it’s a story about Menolly coming to accept her gifts despite the intense prejudice and criticism she has experienced for those gifts up until this point. She is exceptionally talented as a musician, lyricist, and composer, but it takes quite some time for her to first recognize that these things are important and praiseworthy. That’s really what the story arc in the book is: it’s very internal, and not a lot happens externally in the book, which takes place over the course of one week (though I did cheer when ). She moves from self-doubt to self-confidence, makes some enemies and makes some friends. That’s about it, though there were some events () that I assume foreshadow future developments. It’ll seem sparse and the main character may even seem obtuse to fans of heroic fantasy (“Why doesn’t she get how great she is??”), but I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,499 reviews32 followers
September 1, 2022
Another great journey into the Pern world. Great world-building and fun stories. Very recommended
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,585 reviews124 followers
August 28, 2017
This is a continuation of the previous book Drangonsong, and on this re-read I read them sequentially, though when I first discovered these books I did not have that luxury. Though it helps to have read Drangonsong first, McCaffrey comes from the generation of authors where you did NOT publish a book that could not stand on its own (a talent that as a society, we seem to have, MOST regrettably, lost), so it is quite possible to read this book as a standalone.

Menolly has been brought to the Harper Hold, her ability with her nine fire-lizards brought her to the attention of The Master Harper and then he discovered she was the 'lost' apprentice from her hold, who had written those amazing songs that everyone wants more of.

The child prodigy is an eternal prototype in fiction, here McCaffrey shows everyone how to do it best: Menolly has to overcome her background to allow herself to mature, fit in, learn and take her proper place in the Harper Hold. I found it delightful reading, even better re-reading and in many ways a better storyline than the book which immediately precedes it.
Profile Image for Doreen.
2,399 reviews58 followers
November 23, 2009
Gross. I would strongly discourage my daughters from reading this because it encourages a certain kind of female I can't stand: the girl who doesn't get along with other girls (to whom I always want to say "The other girls don't hate you because you're 'special', they hate you because you're insufferable.") The tolerable, even interesting Menolly from the first book (which I gave 4 stars, by the way) disappears into a freaking Mary-Sue, oh so talented, yet so modest, championed by the "good" guys but loathed by the "bad" guys. Blanket dismissals of the other girls abound, and the only ones she gets along with are the ones who are useful to her, either through being in charge of the "women's" work, or in helping her take down her female rivals. Not even these allies are spared: when she finally claims one of the girls her age as "one of her best friends", Menolly finds her tedious because she isn't as good a musician as Menolly. From being persecuted and determined in the first book, she just becomes spoiled and annoying in this one. Making journeyman as quickly as she does also defies belief, as does her multitude of skills mastered by the age of 15.
Profile Image for Sotiris Karaiskos.
1,132 reviews79 followers
December 7, 2017
Following this very nice story, our dear Menolly is in the best place to fulfill her dream of becoming a musician. In this music school she meets all the people who can help her to show off her talent but also others who are putting obstacles and competing her. In this world full of opportunities and challenges, she is having difficulties to adapt, but with the help of her little wingers friends have all the resources to succeed while discovering that what she can offer is not just music.

All this in a book that may not have the emotional intensity of the previous one - although the touching moments are not missing - but it is interesting, as it deepens even more the character of Menolly and in the Pern society. This and the optimistic tone makes this book particularly pleasant, a very good continuation before the end of this story.
9 reviews1 follower
November 15, 2008
Loved this series! Read it as a teenager and was sad to see the author was gaining in years. Eagerly awaited each of her books and read them in one sitting as often as I could. I have read these books countless times and own all except one that I can't find anymore (will check on line). Anne McCaffrey is amazing and a gift to readers. What a drag she is done writing!!!!
Profile Image for Joanne.
553 reviews54 followers
March 4, 2023
Book 2 in the the Harper Hall series, and book 4 in the Pern series.

The story of Mellony continues as she is brought to Harper Hall, to start her path of becoming a Harper. Still not sure of herself, still wondering if she truly belongs there, Mellony embarks on the journey that will change her life. It is hard enough making friends, but she has the roost of 9 fire lizards following her around, and a lot of folk are still leery of the little cousin of the dragons.

There are some great new characters, one particular I liked, Piemur, who becomes Mellony's friend and confident. The next book appears to highlight him and I am looking forward to it.

A great light series I am glad I stumbled on.
Profile Image for Dianna.
1,859 reviews32 followers
March 27, 2021
Oh, Menolly, why didn't I know you when I was a teenager? Another book to add to the list of books I wish I'd read when I was younger, but I'm glad I discovered eventually.
Profile Image for Tracy.
625 reviews21 followers
November 11, 2022
Another quick read. Love this too. Menolly remains one of my favorite characters. I think Dragonsong is a little better than Dragonsinger but only slightly.
Profile Image for Maria Elmvang.
Author 2 books100 followers
June 21, 2022
This is one of those books that would have been too short practically no matter how long it was. One of my very favourite books, and one of my introductions to the fantasy genre. I love the atmosphere it describes, and would love to experience some lessons at Harper Hall myself... even though I'd probably be more likely to be one of the clueless girls (although not as cruel I hope) than Menolly.

I love the lyrics that start off each chapter. Usually when books have lyrics or poems as introductions to chapters I just skip them, but here they seem an integral part of the book :)

It's a shame no more books have been written about Menolly's life at Harper Hall. I was so disappointed with Dragondrums, because I wanted to read more about Menolly - not Piemur.

Love this book - just wish it was longer.

Reread in 2016: No matter how often I read this book, it's just not long enough!
Reread in 2022: The final few pages make me choke up every time! Even after all these years.
Profile Image for Heather-Lin.
1,008 reviews37 followers
April 3, 2022
This sequel was hot and cold for me.
I ADORED everything about the fire lizards, but they could not redeem this story for me. The persecution our girl Mennoly faced in Book 1 was unnecessarily recycled here. I guess the author just wasn't done grinding that axe... And then the ending was ludicrous in how abruptly she gains recognition, admiration, competency and a hero's mission. Sloppy.
The fire lizards deserved better. 🐉🦎🐊


GR Personal Rating System:
★★★★★ 5 Stars ~ LOVED
★★★★☆ 4 Stars ~ ENJOYED
★★★☆☆ 3 Stars ~ LIKED
★★☆☆☆ 2 Stars ~ MEH
★☆☆☆☆ 1 Star ~ NOPE
Profile Image for Meg Cabot.
Author 247 books33.5k followers
July 12, 2014
This book rocked my world in 8th grade. Plus, dragons!
Profile Image for Simon Mcleish.
Author 3 books119 followers
August 21, 2012
Originally published on my blog here in September 2000.

Although, one of the lightest novels in the Pern series, Dragonsinger is one of my favourites. I find it very evocative of what it feels like to take pleasure in making music. McCaffery is of course musical (she was an opera producer before taking up writing), and music plays an important part in a fair number of her novels (the Crystal Singer series and The Ship Who Sang as well as several of the Pern series).

Dragonsinger follows on immediately from Dragonsong, which tells of the early history of Menolly, whose musical nature is despised as impractical by her family. She finally arrives at Harper Craft Hall at the start of this novel, and the story is about how she finds her feet in her new environment, amazed to be somewhere where her gift is not just accepted but encouraged. She is talented even by the standards of the craft, as many people who have had to overcome grave disadvantages in their backgrounds to do what they really want to tend to be. This helps her form relationships with some people, but brings jealous resentment from others.

The secret of the way in which Anne McCaffrey writes about music is that she doesn't try too hard. Music is extremely difficult to describe in words, and the experience of music making even more so. Rather than resorting to metaphor or relying on musical knowledge in the reader, McCaffrey concentrates on the emotional content of the music. This is most easily seen in the scene in which Menolly plays in a chamber group for the first time. The impression given to the reader is the based on how Menolly gets caught up in the music, exhilarated by the experience, in the way in which the various parts fit together intricately, and how time means nothing - a lengthy rehearsal seems really brief.

The character of Menolly is not without literary faults. She is superhumanly gifted - as a composer of songs (both words and music), as a performer on many instruments that she never seems to practise of have had the opportunity to learn, as an instrument maker. She is too good to be possible. Dragonsinger is not, of course, intended to be a major work of literature, and it succeeds admirably on its own level.
April 14, 2019
In Dragonsigner Menolly finds herself at the Harper Hall. Beyond her wildest dreams and all the obstacles placed by her family, she's ready to a new new life doing what she loves - making music. Unfortunately, life in the Hall isn't all she'd hoped. Her possession of nine fire lizards doesn't make her popular with some, and like most novels of this type, Menolly finds herself dealing with the "mean girl" contingent. She has instructors who don't think it's worth their time to train "a girl", especially when said girl actually knows a lot, thanks to training by Petiron, Half Circle Sea Hold's elderly Harper (and Robinton's father) and is actually talented. She makes friends with the irrepressible Piemur and begins a lifelong platonic love with Masterharper Robinton. As she slowly grows into her craft, Menolly becomes aware that her very presence is a part of the changing of attitudes on Pern.

Given time and age, I would have loved for Menolly to have Menolly have more close female friends her age, though given her past it makes sense that she doesnt. Sure there's Mirrim (who really really needs her own series) and Audiva, one of the girls who stays in the cot. Yes, Menolly is incredibly talented, and she doesn't realize the extent of her talent, but I never thought she crossed into "Mary Sue" territory. However, so what? Fantasy is full of male Gary Stus who've been given a pass just because they're the heroes. I'm perfectly fine with heroines who are GOOD at what they do and aren't willing to dumb themselves down or hide their gifts.

And yes, the fire lizards. I still want a fire lizard. Preferably a bronze or a blue.

I also have a soft spot for Masterharper Robinton. Fight me.
Profile Image for Book2Dragon.
335 reviews135 followers
October 30, 2022
A lovely focus on Menolly, her growth in self-esteem and confidence as she discovers there are people in the world who are honest and supportive. This, despite those who bully and gossip and are outright mean. Piemur, and of course Master Robinton are also present, as is Camo and Sebell.
This will end my Pern reading for this year. There is more Anne McCaffrey to read, but am saving it for next year.
Profile Image for Cris.
82 reviews30 followers
July 24, 2015
I adored the new setting and characters in this book. The ending truly hit me in a personal way and moved me. I will not forget Menolly and her struggles for some time yet.
Profile Image for prcardi.
538 reviews73 followers
May 18, 2018
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 4/5
Writing Style: 4/5
World: 3/5

I had made up my mind to dislike this before I started. I don't particularly enjoy children's or young adult books, and I didn't approve of the adolescent turn with the Harper Hall series. While Dragonsong was a perfectly acceptable children's version of the Dragonriders of Pern books, it was a simple recycling of the adult story for younger audiences. McCaffrey didn't make that mistake here. Essentially this is a coming-of-age, boarding school book set in Pern. We get to follow up with the main character from the first in this series, picking up right where we left off in Dragonsong.

It is the characters that make this book so endearing and so difficult to dislike. There is a suffusion of warmth from the Harper characters. McCaffrey takes us along to Harper Hall with a 15-year old's viewpoint and all the anxieties, self-doubt, and worldviews that would have come with one with such a sheltered childhood. We (and by we I mean the reader through the main character of Menolly) meet and interact with the adults with the fear, awe, and uncertainty that would have marked such meetings. And what McCaffrey does so well is to slowly blur that line between adult and child. In my own life I find it takes a steady application of pressure to treat children as such. My inclination is to treat others as my equal, and when a child turns into an adolescent and approaches the young adult age it is difficult to judge when best to let up on that pressure and welcome the teenager into adulthood. McCaffrey offers the reader 15-year old girl's view of how adults negotiate this transition; and this was a treasure.

I was also impressed with this as a work intended to empower women. I often find supposedly feminist texts to bring women down to the worst levels of men in order to promote equality. McCaffrey gives us a teenage girl who gets to see traditional gender roles in a wide range - strong, feminine women; sensitive, mischievous boys; dainty, timid girls; boorish, dimwitted boys; and hyper-masculine, male heroes. A mother figure supports Menolly in maintaining her own tomboyish identity while encouraging her to understand and embrace her femininity. A sage-like male figure tutors our adolescent heroine to tolerance, advising her that the old fogeys who would obstruct her because of her gender are people themselves, with more to their person than their sexist ways. What I approve of so whole-heartedly in this book was the message of empowerment and tolerance that refused to steer into radicalism and liberal bigotry.

The life of artists and the community of the harpers was another real joy to experience in the book. McCaffrey again showed us the adolescent's worldview as the main character learns that all that seems wondrous is usually backed by the mundane. Artists live in the world, not apart from it, and from washing clothes to cooking or eating food, the life of the artist is more than performance. This even-handedness of McCaffrey's wasn't quite so even with some of the characterization. The good characters tend to be wholly good and the bad characters despicable. Also, while it was a joy to follow a character that was so earnest and self-effacing, the lack of pretensions and ambitions made the tale read as if aimless. There's nothing particular I wanted to happen for Menolly, save emotional approval and friendship. There's no overarching suspense of her achieving any of her goals because they're so modest. Thus the tale was a treasure for its warmth but did little to instill in the reader any aspirations or fears.

I've long wanted to find a coming-of-age fantasy work that empowered girls in a positive and wholesome fashion. This was that book. It is unfortunate, however, that it is the 4th book in the overarching Pern series and the 2nd in the Harper Hall series. Thus it is not a book one can just drop into for a singular read.
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,585 reviews124 followers
May 9, 2021
I picked up this book, accidentally began to read it and then found myself utterly swept away by the story of Menolly and her early experiences in the harper hall of Pern. Much like the lyrics 'she' wrote in the book;

Then my feet took off and my legs went, too,
So my body was obliged to follow

And there I was immersed in the story, which I have read before of course, but not for a while. McCaffrey's Pern books are Iconic, I don't suppose a young reader today would find it easy to realise just HOW iconic they are. Before Pern and the dragonweirs, dragons were the bad guys, almost always. Until the notion of impressing a dragon and forming a lifelong bond with them was written in the Pern books, many of us had no idea that was a subconscious dream because we only knew dragons as wild ravening enemies (in literature of course, having never met a dragon in person that I know of).

Another was she was iconic was in the way she wrote women, strong women protagonists, with interests beyond marrying the price and bearing his progeny. Women and girls whose history and vulnerabilities were part of them but did not solely define them, Menolly with her fair of nine singing fire lizards is just such a protagonist. She is gifted in music and in this early book she is still painfully uncertain of herself. The story of how she overcomes small adversities to find her place in the Harper Hall is a balm to anyone who has ever wanted to find the place and the people to whom they belong, but it is a charming story in it's own right as well.

The descriptions of the hold and the daily routines, the festivals or 'gathers' as they are known and the minutiae that goes into constructing the story background is most excellent, delightful to anyone with an interest in medieval history. As it is set in the Harper Hold it is an early book in which we see McCaffrey starting to expand the world of Pern from the Dragons to all the other inhabitants,

While I keep harping (ha ha, did you get the pun... well, I think I am funny at least...) on the place in literature that the author and Pern have, it is beyond doubt a delightful book in it's own right, Menolly finds her place, makes friends, and starts to realise her own talent and her abilities. Marvellous story.
Profile Image for Katrina.
11 reviews7 followers
January 2, 2023
The first two books in the Harper Hall trilogy focus on Menolly, a young woman with a very difficult childhood, who has impressed nine fire lizards and has become a favored apprentice of Harper Hall. The story is very much character-focused, so not as much happens, instead focusing on Menolly's adapting to an environment very different to what's she's ever known and the relationships she builds. It is, however, interesting to see how major events that occurred in the original Dragonriders trilogy impact others in this world. Masterharper Robinton is my favorite character from the original trilogy, so I'm happy to read more about his Harper Hall and the people around him.
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,030 reviews30 followers
December 23, 2018
Such a truly satisfying book, right down to the descriptions of learning to become an accomplished musician, and I loved every minute of it - again! (Why haven't I ever added this to my list, I have no idea!)
Profile Image for Elisabeth.
929 reviews3 followers
March 3, 2020
I guess it is a lot more interesting when you're 12 or something. I found it like a Disney alternative princess story where the protagonist is being so mistreated (again), until someone finally sees their talent and true value and they turn out to be a true genius everyone should be praising. Hmmh.
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