Okay, wow, I had forgotten how unpleasant I find Jaxom about half the time. He's a sympathetic character in that he gets to do all this cool stuff, but the internal monologue and motivations McCaffrey gives him are kind of tool-y. His distress over having no one real place where he fits is deeply appealing, but the way he whines about it is not
Also, hi dodgy gender issues, how I didn't miss you! They're prevalent enough in the Lessa books and the Menolly books, almost negligible in Piemur's book, but here, where you're deeply wedged into Jaxom's brain, they're even worse. His treatment of Corana, the holder girl he first takes up with in order to have a cover for training Ruth to chew firestone, is abysmal. First he almost-forces her when he's caught up in the mating tensions of the green at Fort (which is brushed away when Ruth says but she liked it
), then Jaxom is glad to have his attachment to Sharra as an acceptable excuse for ditching her, except for when Sharra doesn't immediately succumb to his charms(?), he considers seeking out Corana "for a little relief", if only in idle contemplation. I suppose that's some of the class wonkiness in these books coming out, too (Sharra is not for 'relief' because she's Toric's sister, but Corana's father is beholden to Jaxom, so that's okay!), but the whole thing is deeply unpleasant.
And don't even get me started on the whole Jaxom-Menolly thing, or Jaxom and Piemur snitting over Sharra, or poor freakin' Mirrim, who has a careless tongue but has had just as rough a deal as Jaxom but is comstantly
slagged on in all
Still, though. Still. Like with all these books, above and beyond some of the crappy characters and weird class structure and hopefully-outdated views on women, they are so bloody compelling
. Like Valdemar
, I suppose. There remains something inherently attractive about a magical being choosing you and you alone to be their special friend.
I do love the mixing and merging of Craft and Hold and Weyr in this book, as the culmination of the whole trilogy. Or, really, what I consider the six original Pern books - the Dragonrider and Dragonsinger trilogies. I'm glad there's All the Weyrs of Pern that comes after it, but really this is the close of the heart of Pernese canon for me.