I thought maybe I'd read a McCaffrey before this one, but I guess not. I don't specifically remember one and my blog didn't have her name in it thus far. Plus, I'm not a fan of dragon stories, which comprise the bulk of her oeuvre, but here there be no dragons. Crystal Singer is exactly what it says: a woman, Killanshandra Ree, who was let go from her opera academy because of a 'burr' in her voice, and at a loss as to what to do next, discovers that she has an affinity with crystals, which are mined on this oddball planet known as Ballybran (what can I say - the author's Irish!). She happens upon a crystal singer in the spaceport departure lounge, and he tries to talk her out of it. The life is exacting at best, but the more she hears, the more interested she becomes, and she seems destined for the career since she flies through the induction and training.
If there's one thing Ballybran is known for aside from its crystals, it's its storms, which can be horrendous, and when a crystal cutter (aka singer) comes in late, his mining sled badly damaged by a storm which has also fatally battered his body, Killashandra has the smarts to track down the rough geographic area he was mining. Claims are guarded jealously and penalties for claim jumping are severe, but once a cutter dies, their claim is up for grabs, and Killashandra grabs his, which turns out to be a rich one because it has a nice vein of the most sought-after crystal there is: the black crystal, which is worth a small fortune.
With a nice haul in hand, Killashandra is set to sit out the highly dangerous annual storm season, but she's lucky enough to get off planet during it, because she's assigned to set-up and tune the crystals in the planetary system which has bought them to improve its communications. Now that might seem like a lot of spoilers, but it's really not. Plus the novel is almost four decades old, so hardly a new story.
Besides, there's a heck of a lot I haven't told you about this interesting, strong, and self-motivated female character and less about what happens to her during the course of the story. She proved to be completely engaging, and the story moved quickly, and it kept me fully on board, which is not something I can often say about a novel. It's also part of a trilogy, and I'm not a fan of those, but in this case, the first volume was so enjoyable and complete that I was definitely interested in moving onto the next one ASAP, which I could do since the trilogy is so old that all the volumes are out there already! I had problems with volume tow and this is why I am not much into series! More on that in my next review.
There were some minor issues here with plotting which are not explained, such as why there has been no effort to make synthetic crystals, the absence of which necessitates a somewhat dangerous and demanding (in ways I haven't revealed!) profession. Neither does the author explain why the bad weather has not been bypassed by mining for the crystals instead of working them in open-face pits. These I was willing to let go for the sake of a good story but they are examples of poor writing.
Anne McCaffrey has been writing literally for decades and so has a lot of experience, but there was a writing mistake in one section of the book where I read, "Lanzekci is generous, and I shall be installing the five interlocking segments I cut in the Trundimoux system." Nope! She didn't cut them in the Trundimoux system, which is what this sentence suggests. She's installing them there. McCaffrey ought to have written, "... I shall be installing in the Trundimoux system the five interlocking segments I cut ." That should make us all feel better that someone of McCaffrey's sterling reputation and long experience can get something wrong! Or maybe most people wouldn't notice - or care. Maybe it's just me.
But that's a paltry issue. I loved this novel and I commend it as a worthy read. I'm looking forward to the next volume, named after its main character.