Published in 1999 by Avon Books, Singer from the Sea is one of Sheri S. Tepper's most recent novels, although compared to some of her other excellent works (Six Moon Dance, The Fresco, Grass, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, etc.), this one tends to be somewhat overlooked. Perhaps its overt similarities to Six Moon Dance and Grass lead people to believe that it is not as original as the others and must therefore not be as good.

Singer from the Sea, like Six Moon Dance and Grass, takes place upon a separate planet containing a society whose customs and social interactions are subtly, mysteriously different from most of the modern world here on Earth. In all three novels, the main character (almost inevitably female, as Sheri Tepper has obvious leanings toward feminism in most of her works), who has been sheltered from the realities of the planet's society, must discover the truth and save her world from destruction.

However, there the similarities stop: buried beneath layers of secrets within this story lies a plot every bit as unique and startling as those of the others. Genevieve, the daughter of an aristocrat of Haven, is driven to seek the truth of her world by a strange ability to see visions of events which she shares with no one except her long-passed-away mother. She gradually uncovers a horrifying tradition of using the power of a certain plant which grows only in one place in the world. Somehow the rulers of the world, while being the only ones to benefit, have managed to keep both the truth of the source of this power, and even the very existence of this power, a complete secret. The efforts of Genevieve to discover the secret and then to prevent the rulers from benefiting at the expense of others any longer trigger events which spiral the whole planet down toward destruction unless she can stop it with her own abilities.

If that seemed incredibly vague, that is because this novel has the type of story about which it is very difficult to say much of anything without revealing too much. Genevieve's society either seems too normal or makes absolutely no sense until the truth is revealed. Every detail is significant and yet nothing can be put properly into place until the end. The writing is fluid and wonderfully descriptive without being overly so. For all these reasons, this is truly another Sheri Tepper masterpiece.

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