Last chapter, Menolly made a friend. Who was her first girl friend in fifteen Turns. Because that girl had been excluded from the Mean Girl Squad for sticking up for Menolly. The leader of said squad has been dismissed from the Harper Hall, which only really set her loose on the world to continue her campaign of venom. Not that we will hear from her again.
And Shonagar completed the circle of fifths – of alcohol, one bottle for each Master and their sexism.
Dragonsinger: Chapter 11: Content Notes: No notes
So here we are, the last chapter. We still have failed to go an entire book without a female character suffering abuse because of heterodox ideas.
The action, such that it is, is short. Domick wants Menolly to copy out many copies of the sea song she sang at the gather and a couple more of the fire lizard song. Which, surprisingly, leads to Menolly having a thought about home.
Sea songs inland and land songs on the seaside, thought Menolly as she climbed the steps to her room. She wondered just how Yanus, her father, would approve of land songs at Half-Circle Sea Hold. Well and good, and wouldn’t it be the best of all jokes if the land songs introduced at Half-Circle by Harper Elgion were ones she herself had written or copied out? Disgrace the Hold, indeed!
Now she wondered if she should write her mother, Mavi, or her sister, and just casually mention that she was apprentice to the Masterharper of Pern. That all her twiddles and tunings had considerably more merit than anyone at Half-Circle had the wit to appreciate. Except, of course, Harper Elgion. And Alemi, her brother.
No, she wouldn’t write her mother or her father, and certainly not her sister. But she might write Alemi. He’d been the only one who cared. And he’d keep the knowledge to himself.
Assuming that Yanus doesn’t intercept all the mail and read it first for subversive messages, that is. Truthfully, though, I’d rather see Menolly tell off her entire family to their faces, with as much pomp, circumstance, and buildup as possible. Of course, the narrative would hasten to tell us that Menolly is no better than Pona by doing this, no matter how much Yanus deserves to have his bell rung repeatedly by his youngest daughter. Maybe Menolly’s sister could be fostered out with Pona, so the two of them could spit acid at each other as much as they wanted.
Menolly copies out the music, and Domick asks for more before the supper bell, along with a boast about how the Harper Hall is in the business of expanding knowledge, and that Domick knows Menolly’s songs are necessary and good. Menolly is able to produce the extra copies after her lesson with Shonagar, and then has to feed the fire lizards. Dragonriders arrive at the Hall, since tonight is the night where journeymen receive their assignments. T’gellan arrives with a pair of boots, in Harper blue, for Menolly from Benden, which is a reminder that only seven days time has elapsed since the beginning of the book. More on time later.
It’s assignment dinner, which means the Mean Girl Squad continues their silent treatment and Piemur gets to expound again about Robinton’s plan to send his journeymen and music around so that everyone gets cross-crafted. Robinton sends out the journeymen – three to Telgar, (one for a hold, one for the Minercrafthall to improve the metals sent for instruments, and the archivist’s senior journeyman to Wansor, the Starsmith we met in Dragonquest), two to Igen, one to Bitra, and one to Lemos to work with Benelek, a woodsmith, who chooses the wood for the Hall. The journeyman is to assist in that selection for Jerint’s benefit.
Then comes the special announcement from Robinton.
“To be a Harper requires many talents, as you all ought to realize by now,” and he frowned at the very youngest of the apprentices who giggled nervously. “Not all of these skills need to be learned within these walls. Indeed, many of our most valuable lessons are more forcefully learned at some distance from this hallowed Hall,” and he frowned at the journeymen, who grinned back at him. “However, when the fundamentals of our craft have been well and truly learned, I insist that we hold no one back from the rank they are entitled to by knowledge and ability, and in this case, rare talent. Sebell, Talmor, since neither of you will resign in the other’s favor…”
A silence emphasized by Piemur’s tiny gap of astonishment fell over the dining hall as Sebell and Talmor rose from their table and walked up the aisle by the hearth. They stopped. Startled, Menolly looked up at Sebell’s shy grin and Talmor’s broad smile.
“Menolly’s a journeyman! Menolly’s a journeyman!” echoed the other apprentices, clapping their hands on rhythm to their chant. “Menolly’s made journeyman. Walk, Menolly, walk. Walk, Menolly, walk!”
The last vestige of anxiety lifted from Menolly’s mind. As a journeyman in blue, she had rank and status enough to fear no one and nothing. No further need to run or hide.
And roll credits! Menolly has, in seven days, gone from being the runaway girl with the fire lizards to a journeyman Harper, now secure in her status no matter where she goes. She’s overcome all sorts of obstacles and we should feel good about her. And we can be proud of her for overcoming all those narrative-mandated problems.
In terms of plot, we’ve spent two books on Menolly, and we haven’t received a real reason to believe that she’s important in the grand scheme of things.
- An abuse survivor
- An exemplar of the Disney Princess female power fantasy
- A girl with nine fire lizards, who is becoming the foremost expert in their care, feeding, and training.
- A journeyman-rank Harper
None of which necessarily says that Menolly is important to the overarching plot.
Most crucially, though, is the timeline of the books so far. We started the Harper Hall trilogy in roughly the same time as Dragonquest, but we’ve taken two books to get up to the end of Dragonquest. Which runs the risk of turning the entire Harper Hall Trilogy into a Gaiden Game, where we don’t actually have to have read the stories here to be able to follow the main plot of the series. The next book is going to be the first opportunity, it seems, for the plot to advance past the points where it has already been.
That’s fairly insulting to Menolly – all this strife and problems and abuse for her on camera, only for her entire story not to matter in the slightest? That’s not a good way to write your books. Or to develop your characters, even if it is consistently the way the narrative has been treating its women characters.
Next time, we get to find out whether or not we’ve wasted all this time on books that ultimately don’t matter.