For many years, I've been reading and re-reading the Harper Hall trilogy, loving it each time and taking the general social structure within the book for granted. However, I recently became interested in Pern outside of the scope of the Harper Hall. As I read Anne McCaffrey's first book in the Dragonriders of Pern series, Dragonflight, I learned that things were not always as I had thought. This book is the story of how the Pern I've always enjoyed came to be. I had a bit of trouble keeping everyone's name straight, as several different characters frequently have similar names (for example, F'lar is not to be confused with F'nor; and T'bor is not the same person as T'sum) due to the method of naming children on Pern. Thankfully, in this particular copy there was a "Dragondex" in the back that helped to keep the main characters straight.
Lessa is a lowly kitchen drudge at Ruatha Hold. However, there's more to her than meets the eye. It turns out that she's actually one of the last true Ruathans, and the cruel Lord Fax killed the rest of her family when she was eleven during his conquering of Ruatha Hold. Since that day, Lessa has been planning her revenge so that she can take over the home that should have been rightfully hers.
Everything changes on the day that F'lar, rider of a bronze dragon named Mnementh, visits Ruatha Hold with Lord Fax. (A bronze dragon is the highest-ranking male dragon.) With F'lar are his twelve wingmen, other dragonriders, including his half-brother F'nor, who rides a brown dragon named Canth. F'lar is on Search-- in other words, he is looking for a strong woman who is capable of becoming Weyrwoman. Lessa doesn't know this--she only sees an opportunity to rid her Hold of Lord Fax forever by making him renounce his claim on it in front of dragonmen. She subtly manages to make Lord Fax's meal inedible in various ways, which makes him angry, and he swears an oath that he will not have a Hold that cannot support itself.
However, things do not happen as Lessa has planned. Fax ends up dead, Ruatha Hold goes to his newborn son Jaxom, and F'lar has found the woman he wants to become Weyrwoman: Lessa. As Lessa consents to go to Benden Weyr, she has no idea that she will have to learn to work with F'lar, and together, somehow find a way to save Pern from the deadly spores of Thread...