Dragonsinger (1977) is arguable the best book that Anne McCaffrey wrote. It's long enough to full of good stuff, but no so long that you lose interest in it before you are done. It is also, arguably, the second half of Dragonsong. Taken together, they form one good book.
This Dragonsinger, Menolly goes to Harper Hall in order to become a harper. Her main problem is that she's a female, and young women don't become harpers, so even though she's where she always wanted to be, the hall doesn't know how to place her correctly. She repeatedly does not fit in, partly due to the social structure, partly due to the fact that she's not learning the apprentice ropes and it's nobody's job to show her, and partly due to Robinton's tendency to start projects and then leave other people to straighten them out.
To be honest, I had forgotten most of this book. I still remembered the big beats, but all the small ones had gone rolling down memory lane. This time around, I caught all the more subtle things that I didn't catch when I was a YA reader, especially the mostly random social disasters that befell the poor girl. I also had a better feel for how Menolly was a traumatized person, and dealing with trauma takes time. She does not snap around into a new person right away, tripping over herself just as much as others cause her to trip.
I thought that Anne played a nice game with the girl and clothes, down to the shoes. Or perhaps Anne didn't realize what she had done because we authors create analogies without realizing it.
The book introduces a number of characters and expands on a few more. Robinton goes from an iconic character to a more human one. We get to see what the man looks like in more situations, along with so many of his flaws. Piemer becomes Menolly's best mate, and Sebell a new acquantaince. Lord Grogh get screen time as well.
As harpers are underexplored so far in the series, we get a deeper look into Harper Hall. What seems monolithic at first turns out to be an assembly of crafts that fit under the same roof. Harper Hall acts as a university, a scriptorium, a conservatory, an instrument workshop, a communication center, a medical center, a propaganda center, and an intelligence gathering operation. It's no wonder that lots of fans like harpers because harpers get to do lots and lots of different things.
As this is a YA adult novel, it must contain bullies and completely unnecessary conflict. Although we're hit over the head with this, it doesn't hurt too much and doesn't dominate the story at all times. Everything comes out OK for our dear protagonist even if all problems aren't solved at the end. There are still grudges kept.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed this reread and I hope to reread it again sometime.