The planet Pern has a major problem: every few hundred years Thread falls, obliterating all living matter that it touches. Luckily, the first settlers managed to adapt indigent fire-lizards to become huge dragons that can fight the Thread threat. Now centuries later, the original settlers have lost their original technology, but retain the dragons.
Menolly is a young girl living in a Sea-Hold. Her community revolves around fishing and the sea. Her own private life revolves around music. But girls are not supposed to be Harpers, so she has no encouragement from anyone around her. When the home situation becomes unbearable, she flees. But in a hidden cave surrounded by the near-mythical fire-lizards, she is still in great danger from the Thread. Can she survive? And will she ever be able to play music again?
Like many books written for young women in the seventies (another obvious example would be the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce) the gender equality issue is far more blatant and pivotal than is generally found in modern books. Contemporary fiction tends to pit girls in far more subtle gender battles, fighting to balance their femininity with nontraditional roles or taking on the challenge of defining what it means to be female. We can easily forget that this generation can make these subtle distinctions because they are building off of their grandparent’s uphill battle to simply be included as equals. It is, therefore, a bit of a time capsule to see a book where the protagonist is so straightforwardly simply challenging the status quo’s traditional gender roles.