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The Dolphins of Pern - Anne McCaffrey This review can also be read on my blog, Stumptown Books.

This book will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first introduction to Anne McCaffrey, probably when I was about 12 or 13. According to my mom, my grandpa called asking what I wanted for my birthday, and she said “Oh, any book with dragons or dolphins will make her happy.” How right she was! I didn’t get much out of it on my first read through, as you really need to have read the rest of the series first, but it stuck with me long enough that I picked up Dragonflight not too long afterward, and the rest, as they say, is history. I was pretty devastated last year when she passed :(

Not too long ago, I decided I wanted to start from the beginning and read the entire Pern series, picking up all the books I had missed in high school. This time I made sure to read them in the proper order – publication order is the recommended way to read them from the McCaffrey estate. (Link leads to a PDF of the suggested reading order) Every subsequent novel references the one directly before it so I highly recommend this order as well. No wonder The Dolphins of Pern made so little sense to me the first time through. I had no idea about impressions or fire lizards or harpers or any of that. Definitely do NOT accidentally start here like I did. Dragonflight is an amazing novel, start there.

The story of Readis being rescued by dolphins is briefly mentioned in a predecessor, I believe All the Weyrs of Pern, but it is much more fleshed out here. The dolphins are engaging and hilarious and plastered a big dumb smile on my face whenever they appeared. Unfortunately, the title belies their actual involvement in the story – there wasn’t nearly enough dolphin! But we had to get some good ol’ Pern politicking out of the way, and Menolly showing up is always a pleasure. The dragons are mostly in the background throughout this story, with a few exceptions. I think this is the first Pern installation without a hatching of any sort.

Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels unfortunately start showing a tendency towards sexism. The lady hated women I guess! The Dolphins of Pern is the worst yet. There’s not a single main character in this book who is a woman. Menolly shows up, but all we hear about is her pregnancy and how she really wants it to be a boy. There are a couple other pregnant women in Paradise River Hold, and THEY all want boys too. Aramina is a gigantic bitch for no apparent reason other than “motherly worry.” I seriously wanted to punch her, and I wanted Readis to run away and be with his damn dolphins. This really detracted from the novel for me.

For the first half, I thought this was going to be my first 4-star Pern review since The White Dragon (Dragonriders of Pern #6). There was a lot of Alemi, Readis, and T’lion for the first part, and it kept my avid interest. Pretty soon however, it got back to the exhausting Lord Toric, and boring councils with the weyrleaders. Sadly, it dropped back to 3-stars for me, as I really just wanted more dolphins! I enjoyed it more than some of the Pern books before this, namely, The Renegades of Pern. Yuck! Definitely read it if you love Pern and you want a complete history, but only lovers of the world would enjoy it, and it does not hold up on its own.

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