When Killashandra Ree fails her music exam she's initially shattered - being a singer is the only thing that's occupied her life. But any sorrow is quickly subsumed by anger, particularly toward the Maestro who gave her hope instead of warning. With the end of her student candidature comes a loss of both housing and income - Killashandra goes to drown her dashed hopes at the space-port, but is distracted by an unpleasant whine from an incoming engine. She's not the only one to notice it - a forceful man directs a space port official to hold the ship until its engine is re-tuned, and the appearance of his credentials causes significant deference and respect.
For Carrick is a member of the Heptite Guild, a crystal singer. Killashandra's never heard of Heptite or singers, but almost anything would be better than hanging around Fuerte now she has no chance of becoming the success she always knew she was meant to be. She accompanies Carrick to Heptite, over the protests of Maestro Valdi and the warnings of the transport captain, and finds a new future, singing and cutting crystal in the spectacular ranges of Heptite, where the beauty of harmonies and scenery, combined with great wealth if the right crystals are cut in the right way, outweigh the near certainly of madness, death and disability.
I first read the Killashandra trilogy over two decades ago (I feel old), and remember being spell bound by the world building and description. Returning to the first novel after all this time I'm a little less overwhelmed but still enjoyed the experience. McCaffrey's world is unique and compelling, and though I don't remember Killashandra being quite so arrogant, I still warmed to her. I have a lot on my plate already, but intend re-reading the rest of the book in the forthcoming months. - Alex