Re-reading The Harper Hall Trilogy

I never realized this before but I can pinpoint specific childhood books that were game-changers for me. Both Matilda and Anne of Green Gables introduced me to feisty, book-loving heroines. A Wrinkle in Time turned me on to science fiction. And Harper Hall is the reason why I became a fantasy lover. I still own my original set of books and in the last couple of years, I’ve been meaning to go on a re-read binge. So last week when I was home sick with nothing to do (and discovered that Simon & Schuster is releasing a box set with brand new covers this September!), I decided to go for it.

I re-read all three in a matter of hours (they seemed so much longer when I was a kid!) and I’m happy to report that years later, the amazingness of these books still hold up completely.

About the books
Harper Hall takes place in the land of Pern, where its people are plagued by Threads that fall from space destroying everything in its path. Their only form of defense are dragons, and their riders, who fly throughout the land obliterating Thread with fire. 

Dragonsong features Menolly, a girl with great musical talent. But because she’s from a strict sea hold, led by her father, it’s been made very clear to her that she has no future in music. Despite the cruel ways her family tries to hold her back (they made me so mad!), it doesn’t stop her and one day she decides to run away. This is how she comes across the hatching of wild fire lizards, relatives to dragons, and Impresses nine (!) of them. She even inadvertently teaches them how to sing with her and suddenly, the possibilities are endless.

Dragonsinger continues Menolly’s story as her knowledge of fire lizards and music spread throughout the other holds and she’s taken in as an apprentice at Harper Hall, where Master Robinton (of music) resides. Of the three books, this one is my favorite. The dragon lore is fantastic but more so, I loved watching Menolly’s journey. For the first time in her life, she’s encouraged to explore her musical talents and refine them. People are looking out for her. It’s the polar opposite of the life she led before and the effect it has on her was a joy to read.

Dragondrums takes an interesting turn by changing the point-of-view to Piemur, a young boy Menolly befriended in the previous books. His apprenticeship focused on singing until his voice changes and he’s taken under the wing of Master Robinton and Menolly to carry out secret Harper tasks. I’ve always liked Piemer, since he was the first person to make Menolly feel welcome, but I admit, I prefer him as a secondary character. When I think of this trilogy, the heart of it is Menolly and my favorite moments in this book were all the ones featuring her.

Read this series
I think The Harper Hall trilogy is timeless and having read it again now, I can see why it made such an impression on me as a young girl. Even though the books are short (small paperbacks, less than 300 pages), they pack a punch and it’s due to the author’s writing. It’s simple and straightforward but her imagery and ability to capture emotion is spot-on. I hope this post inspires my fellow fantasy lovers to give it a shot or re-read if you’re a long-time fan like me. I guarantee you’ll fall in love and wish you had a little fire lizard of your own (or maybe that’s just me!)

[P.S. This trilogy is actually part of McCaffrey’s larger series, the Dragonriders of Pern. I haven’t read the rest of them but I did buy the first book of the original trilogy last year. Now that I’ve reread Harper Hall, I’m feeling super motivated to read the originals and possibly the rest of the books too. Will keep you all posted!]


  1. Those new covers are fantastic, although I am fond of the original ones shown in your post here.

    My mom is a champ and read to me all the time as a kid. She even read the first three Harry Potter books when I first got into them. But we don't really have a lot of books in common. Then one day when I was in high school, my mom said to me I should read these books she'd read with tiny dragons in them and she told me a lot of the plot of Dragonsong. But she didn't know the title! It took a couple of years but I finally stumbled across the books in the library I worked at in college. I was so happy to find them. I haven't read the other Pern novels but I so, so loved these. Just seeing your post about them made me smile!

  2. Dragonsinger is absolutely one of my favorite books. Menolly gets to meet people who support her (and ones who don't), show off her talent, charm people with her fire lizards, and the bullies get what's coming to them in the end. I read my mom's copy and eventually I had to tape the cover back on because it was falling apart after being read too much.

  3. I'm even more excited to read the Harper Hall trilogy! As you already know, I'm very much partial to dragons and fantasy novels, and having them combined this way works very well for me. The fact that these are a bit smaller than the fantasy novels these days but still pack quite a punch doesn't surprise me; it reminds me of stuff like Tamora Pierce's novels, which are equally well-written and awesome. Can't wait to indulge in these!


with love,