MasterSinger Merelan and Harper Petiron were a brilliant and devoted couple. Merelan was the most outstanding soprano ever heard on Pern, and was often the only one who could master Petiron's technically accomplished compositions. When, after a long and difficult birth, Robinton was born to them, it should have been the culmination of a unique partnership.
But Petiron, almost from the first day, had no time for his son, refusing to see the incredible talent the boy possessed, ignoring his achievements and maintaining a strict and disapproving vigilance over him at all times.
Carefully, secretly, the Harper Hall took over, training the greatest talent Pern had ever seen - a talent that was more than just musical, for Robinton was able to talk to the dragons of Pern.
As constant sadness beset his personal life, so a startling career sent him like a meteor through the Holds and Weyrs of Pern until, as MasterHarper, he became part of the great plan to rescue Lessa from the brutal rule of Holder Fax - Lessa, who was to be the saviour of the dragons of Pern.
The mostly melancholy early life of Robinton anchors this quiet installment of Pernese history, set just before the opening of Dragonflight, the first novel in the Dragonriders of Pern series. Mortally threatened every few centuries by Thread, which destroys each living thing it touches, Pern is defended by its fetching telepathic dragons and their dashing Weyrmen riders. Between Threadfalls, wandering teacher-bards trained at Harper Hall maintain the traditions that bind holders, craftsmen and dragonriders together. As the novels opens, hundreds of years after the last Threadfall, Robinton is born to Mastercomposer Petiron and his wife, Mastersinger Merelan. Petiron unreasonably resents and rejects his musically gifted son. Despite his father's ill will, however, Robinton rises to Mastership, his successes accompanied by a growing crescendo of animosity directed at dragonriders throughout Pern by the villainous Fax, who eventually arranges the murder of Robinton's Weyrleader friend F'lon. Fans of Pern will likely be enthralled by McCaffrey's detailing of life at Harper Hall, but, as always throughout this popular series, the story takes wing primarily when McCaffrey's beloved dragons roar and their riders soar upon the beasts' mighty backs. Even given his talents and his ability to speak with dragons, McCaffrey's Robinton is, ultimately, only a baritone, while the dragonriders F'lon and his avenging son, F'lar, hero of most of the Pern novels, are the flamboyant tenors who have given voice to McCaffrey's most magical moments.