The Masterharper of Pern

Anne McCaffrey 1926-2011, The Dragon LadyR.I.P Anne McCaffrey, 1926-2011. You will be missed and the dragons are still keening for you.


“A heart that’s true in harper blue
makes song from heart’s own fire,”
(All the Weyrs of Pern 1991)

This quote is one that I feel best describes the character of Robinton, the main character in Anne McCaffrey’s  book The Masterharper of Pern (1998). If you’ve read any of the Pern series you will know that Robinton is one of the most beloved characters in the whole series and this book specifically outlines his life.

If you don’t understand a word from that last paragraph, here’s a brief background of the planet Pern. Pern is a fictional planet created by Anne McCaffrey. It is the third planet in the Rukbat system in the Sagittarian sector of our night sky. The planet was colonized in the very far future by humans and turned into an agricultural colony. Just at the settlers were getting comfortable a deadly spore named Thread started falling from the Red Star. The Red Star is actually a planet with an eccentric orbit around Rukbat and only comes close enough to drop Thread on Pern every 200 years. Thread is non-intelligent but will devour any organic material it comes into contact with, including trees, animals, and humans. As a way to combat Thread before it reached Pern’s fertile soil, the settlers bioengineered fire breathing dragons by altering an indigenous life form known as fire lizards. The dragons are Impressed at hatching with a partner with whom they communicate telepathically. The pairing is for life and if one of the pair is to die the other would soon follow. Harpers are very important on Pern. They are the teachers, musicians, and peacekeepers of Pern. Robinton is the Masterharper, which means he is in charge of all the Harpers all over Pern.

The Dragonriders of Pern is the series of books that sparked my love of reading. When I was young I hated to read and my school librarian recommended these books to me. It was love. I honestly can’t begin to describe how amazing these books are. Whether you are a fantasy fan or a science fiction fan these books are for you because they are a perfect balance of the two genres.

The Masterharper of Pern is the 15th novel in the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey (and her son Todd McCaffrey) and it takes place 55 turns (aka years) before the beginning of the Ninth Pass of the Red Star to shortly before the pass actually begins (the beginning of Dragonflight).

The story follows Robinton’s life from birth. We meet his mother and father as well as his various friends and distant relatives. We also find out many of the hardships that Robinton faced as he grew up in the Harper Hall, the place where all Harpers are trained. One such hardship is Robinton’s relationship with his father, Petiron, a Master Composer, and the effect is has on his mother, Merelan, a Master Singer. Another adversity that has a lasting effect on the Masterharper is the death of Robinton’s spouse, Kasia.

For those who have read the previous Dragonrider books The Masterharper of Pern is full little aha! moments when we recognized a name of a character only briefly mentioned in other books. For example, we learn the relationship between F’lon (who is F’lar’s father) and Robinton as well as the identity of Robinton’s only son.

For more information on the Dragonriders Series you should visit some of these websites!

Sariel’s Guide to Pern

Suggested Reading Order  **Please note that Todd McCaffrey’s  three newest books are not listed. They are Dragongirl (2010), Dragon’s Time (2011), and Sky Dragons (2012 – forthcoming)**

The Pern Museum and Archives

The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey

Todd McCaffrey, Author, Artist, Pilot, Geek