Next up: “Crystal Singer”, “Killashandra”, and “Crystal Line” by Anne McCaffrey.
Apparently, this is YA? I found it in the adult fiction section of my library, but whatever. Some good scifi, though.
Killashandra is a young woman who has spent years of her life training and dreaming of becoming a famous operatic soloist. After her vocal judges decree that her voice is not quite up to par for any lead parts, Killashandra is left with shattered dreams and a stinging pride. Not willing to settle for choral or supporting parts, she decides to quietly disappear from school and her home planet.
As she is leaving, however, she meets a man who fascinates her in many ways. He is a crystal singer of the Heptite Guild, the organization that has the monopoly on the crystal of Ballybran. These unique minerals, when properly cut, are used in many different forms of technology– including ship engines. Being a crystal singer is dangerous and difficult– the unusual ecology of Ballybran requires strict quarantine, and any who travel to the surface (only Guildmembers) of the planet are infected with a symbiotic lifeform that causes genetic mutations in its hosts. The exact type of mutations determine a person’s job within the Guild. Crystal singers are those who have advanced sensory perception and perfect pitch, allowing them to hear and manipulate the raw crystal to know how to cut it. But mining crystal is dangerous, not only for the general hazards common to any mining operation, but also because Ballybran is prone to storms that cause crystal deposits to sing, which can drive a singer mad. As well, singers cannot leave the planet for too long, or else the symbiont becomes disabled and the host dies.
Despite the risks, crystal singing is a phenomenally lucrative job, and held in high esteem. Killashandra is drawn to the idea, and eventually joins the Heptite Guild and becomes a crystal singer. The first book chronicles her start in the Guild, the second and third books see Killashandra’s involvement in the political and economic intricacies of the universe and the Heptite Guild.
This is a very interesting scifi setting. I’ve not discovered another of its like since. The world of Ballybran, the Heptite Guild, and the crystals are all very unique and very cool. I also really liked seeing other worlds in the universe, and the addition of the economics/politics just added interest to the series and drives some of the plot.
I generally liked the story of each book, the third a bit less than the first two, and don’t have any serious complaints about the series in that regard. I also generally liked the characters, though Killashandra can at times be annoyingly arrogant. That seems to be a common character failing of crystal singers, though, and she does get a little bit better with time. She gets taken down a few pegs at a couple different points in the series, which helps. Still, she sometimes is very entitled. Yes, we get it, lady: Crystal singers are big-shots. That doesn’t mean you can expect people to fall over themselves to do stuff for you.
I did feel a little miffed with her romances through the books. She has a few relationships and occasionally they seem a little awkward. Especially her relationship with her mentor… it never seemed really ethical. And certain other events in the series (the vagueness of trying to avoid spoilers…) make her relationships seem at times imprudent. That said, the romantic aspect of the books isn’t really a negative, and since they’re intended to be YA, it’s not really explicit either. It’s more ‘show kisses, fade to black’.