Very original space fantasy novel. Mikk is an alien who was abused and neglected as a baby by his parents. When he becomes a young boy, he is sent to a music conservatory to study, but his abuse makes him quiet and it seems hard for him to learn. While he is there he catches the eye of a visiting performance master (someone who has mastered countless instruments as well as the art of dance, theater and other performance arts). This man decides to take Mikk in as his last and greatest apprentice. Mikk eventually becomes famous and reverred but his fame and fortune cannot help him when he decides to defy a ban on performing a dance of a dead civilization. The punishment for this crime is death. While this book is about art and censorship, it was so rich and full of other things as well, and was very enjoyable to read. I feel like this is a hidden gem: while it won a award when it first came out, it doesn't seem like this author wrote more than 2 books. I count this among the classics and have reread it several times. One warning: there are brief mentions of alien sex and love between two males, but don't let that dissuade you.
I picked this up as it was part of the Del Rey Discovery series, and I'd seen extremely good reviews of it, praising this debut novel to the skies...
Well, it was a good, enjoyable space-opera-type story, but I think my expectations had been raised a little bit too high. It was fun - reminded me quite a bit of Deborah Chester's "Golden One" trilogy - a sci-fi/fantasy setting with lots of different co-existing races (mostly inspired by different kinds of animals) and an adventure with themes of freedom and etc...
However, it's not really "deep" and the supposedly-barrier-pushing same-sex-interspecies love affair was neither explicit nor shocking.... (the protagonist is soulmates with a snake-like character).
The story deals with Mikk - a multi-talented artist who is on trial by an interplanetary Council which governs art for performing the songdance of a recently-extinct race, against their wishes and the Council's specific ban. It's told in parallel form, one strand showing us Mikk's life and rise to success, and the other dealing with his current troubles.
There are some interesting ideas here, especially the issue of who art really belongs to, and whether a people can or should feel that they "own" something, and whether an outsider can truly understand the expresssion of another culture... But I could have wished that that the discussion delved a little deeper into these issues - and at the end, the way everything wrapped up felt very pat, to me.
This book won the The Compton Crook Award for Best New Novel, but since then (1997) Waitman has only published one other novel. Perhaps she's decided writing is not the field for her? She doesn't seem to have a website.