There are at least twenty novels set in McCaffrey’s fantasy world of Pern. Dragonsong is the fourth book in the series, but it’s the first book in the Harper Hall trilogy (which is a series within a series), so you can read it even if you are new to McCaffrey and the world of Pern (as I was).
Everyone in Pern lives in underground villages or “holds” because it’s too dangerous to live outside. Every so often, “Thread,” a flesh-eating spore, rains down for hours from a nearby planet. To protect themselves, the people of Pern depend on dragons, who can destroy Thread mid-air with their fire, and dragonriders, the men who care for and control the dragons.
Meanwhile, Menolly, a 14-year old resident of the Half-Circle Seahold, is miserable. Her father, a stern fisherman, has forbidden her from writing songs, partly because she is a girl, and partly because only official “Harpers” are allowed to compose music. In despair, Menolly runs off, and, as luck would have it, finds herself stuck outside during a Thread storm.
Desperately, she finds shelter in a cave, where she also discovers a nest of hatching dragon lizards — flying, miniature dragons which are so rare that most people don’t even believe in them. Because Menolly is the first person to feed the nine lizards, they grow dependent on her. Now, she must find a way to survive long-term on the surface of Pern and to nurture her new astonishing family of lizards.
Dragonsong was a huge treat for me because I was able to forget the real world and live in Pern for a while. It’s a perfect novel for anyone who likes imaginary worlds full of bizarre dangers over which only dragons can prevail.