Book Review of Killashandra (Crystal Singer, Bk 2)

Killashandra (Crystal Singer, Bk 2)
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Killashandra is the second novel in the Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffrey. The author's notes from the first in the series "Crystal Singer" explain the story is based on four stories that were originally published in Roger Elwood's Continuum series. The 1982 version is expanded from these stories. Crystal Singer is about the trials and tribulations of Killashandra Ree in becoming a crystal singer on the planet Ballybran.

Killashandra Ree has trained all her life to become a stellar class vocal soloist. After her final exams, she is told that there is a flaw in her voice which would prevent her from singing lead roles. She does not wish to continue a life in which she will be limited to choral work and secondary operatic roles. She meets a Crystal Singer, a kind of miner who sings in order to mine crystals for uses in different technologies. (Ballybran crystal has unique qualities that make it a necessity for almost any machinery or communications equipment.) Life as a crystal singer strikes her as attractive â" high pay, travel, prestige, and near-immortality. In a fit of pique, Killashandra travels to Ballybran to investigate her chances of joining the Heptite Guild and becoming a Crystal Singer. She meets the main qualification, perfect pitch, and believes that if she cannot be first among operatic performers, perhaps she could become first among the select group of elite Ballybran crystal miners.

However, Ballybran is not a normal world. Habitation on the planet is restricted because of the planet's dangers, primary of which is an alien symbiont that invades the human body. The symbiont provides the host many benefits, including rapid tissue regeneration and a vastly prolonged life expectancy but it often alters the human host in negative ways, such as hearing loss or altered vision. It also negates the host's ability to have children. The only persons allowed on planet are the crystal singers and the support staff for their facilities and only the singers are able to travel away from the planet, although even they must return before too long in order to replenish their symbiont.

Killashandra becomes a Crystal Singer of the top tier by locating and mining the rarest and most elusive form of Ballybran Crystal, Black Crystal, and is subsequently sent offworld on assignment to install the set of crystals she mined for their eventual buyers. She is required to "perform" in the role of a mysterious member of the highly respected and powerful Heptite Guild to win over an audience of mistrusting asteroid miners who have mortgaged their futures on the badly needed black crystals. Her success brings her full circle and she returns home to Ballybran to begin her new life of wealth and status.

In this second novel of the series, Killashandra is once again sent offworld, this time to the planet of Optheria. Her task is ostensibly to install new White Crystals into the manual of the planet's largest Optherian Organ, which was shattered under mysterious circumstances....