Colonists wanting to escape war and pollution start an agrarian society on another planet. Their plans are stalled by the eruption of two volcanoes and the onslaught of Thread, a non-sentient organism which consumes all organic matter it touches. They are forced to leave their original homes and to build vast shelters in cliffs and caves. They also breed dragons. The society is split into the Dragonriders and Holders, who work the land.

The society portrayed in the early books is a well-formed and, for the most part, happy one. Certainly individuals have their grievances, but people are satisfied on the whole with their semi-medieval existence. There is no mention of any kind of religion (except as something that people used to practice) but the natural law is seen to be carried out on the whole. An interview with the author in the preface to “The Girl Who Heard Dragons” reveals that she considers religion to be merely an excuse to start wars. Moral liberality appears in the relationships between dragonriders. Essentially, a rider “impresses” a dragon at hatching, forming a life-long mental link. When a dragon rises to mate with another, the corresponding riders are so affected that they play their own part in this, coupling with each other. This is portrayed as a situation unique to the dragonriders and elsewhere promiscuity is as frowned upon as anywhere else these days. All this is very much more emphasised in the more recent books (including references to homosexual dragonriders), and while not graphic, is on occasion unsettling. A shame because there is much good in the books.

Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London.  He is also the editor of the Good-to-Read website.