Young Kindan has no expectations other than joining his father in the mines of Camp Natalon on Pern. Mining is fraught with danger, but fortunately the camp has a watch-wher, a creature distantly related to dragons and uniquely suited to specialized work in the dark, cold mineshafts.
Then disaster strikes, leaving Kindan orphaned and the camp without a watch-wher. Grieving, Kindan is taken in by the camp's new Harper and finds a measure of solace in a burgeoning musical talent . . . and in a new friendship with the mysterious Nuella. It is Nuella who assists Kindan when he is selected to hatch and train a new watch-wher, a job that forces him to give up his dream of becoming a Harper; and it is Nuella who helps him give new meaning to his life.
Meanwhile, long-simmering tensions are dividing the camp. As warring factions threaten to explode, Nuella and Kindan begin to discover hidden talents in the watch-wher - talents that could very well save an entire Hold and which show them that even a seemingly impossible dream is never completely out of reach ...
Beloved bestseller McCaffrey has joined forces with her son, Todd, to produce another delightful entry in the Pern series, which began with Dragonflight in 1968. The action here centers on Camp Natalon, the site of a coal mine. Now that the surface seams of coal have begun to run dry on Pern, it's imperative to start extracting coal from deep underground, despite the increased danger. Some of the miners rely on the expertise of the watch-whers, smaller versions of dragons, to help keep them safe in the mines. As Kindan, blind Nuella and master harper Zist puzzle out the lore, habits and abilities of these nocturnal creatures, they find out more about the watch-whers (and themselves) than they thought possible. Fans who have become comfortable with McCaffrey's smooth trademark style over the years will notice no seams which bodes well for any solo novels her coauthor, the heir apparent, may contribute to the Dragonriders saga.