BThis year my A to Z theme is world building, and today I’m featuring Ballybran.  But it’s also my book review day, so here’s a book review of sorts.

B is for Ballybran, and that is the setting for the Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffrey.  Well, the main setting, although Killashandra, book 2 in the series, is placed mainly on a planet Killa is sent to investigate as part of an ostensible review of a crystal installation… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Crystal Singer: Killashandra Ree is told she will never make an intergalactic opera star, but she’ll be fine as a second-rank soloist or support.  Killashandra is not going to play second fiddle to anyone, and in outrage she sets off to find somewhere, anywhere, where she will be the best in the world.  She ends up applying to be a crystal miner on the extraordinarily secretive Ballybran.  It’s a job for life, due to the way Ballybran crystal interacts with those who mine it; and not everyone can, which provides a large population of supporting jobs for those who don’t make the grade but can’t leave Ballybran.

This is a book ideal for teenage and twenties girls who believe they can change the world, be anything they want to be, and don’t want to lie down and accept what life hands them.  I don’t know anyone who might be like that…  well, yes, I found Killa to be a heroine I wanted to be, out on the ranges, singing to crystal, and jetting round the universe installing it.  Even better, in book 2, the eponymous Killashandra, she sets off to a wonderful planet conserved for the leisure enjoyment of all, to find a stifling set of rules and elders who insists that nothing should change.  No creativity, no stepping outside of the norms.  Not even interference with the ground of the planet, so that houses are built uncertainly on the surface and make the whole place look a tumbledown mess.  And the rebels are free thinking, free spirited people, who roam around by boat in the south sea islands.  Mmm….  And the hot one, I suddenly realise, is called Lars.  He’s nothing like my Lars, although he’s just as sexy.  Hm.  I think I may have to work harder to make sure my Lars isn’t too much like Lars Dahl.

Book 3 is less memorable, and, since I have written all the above from memory, I find it interesting that the only part of the story I remember of book 3 (Crystal Line) is that Killa develops into the sort of crystal miner she hated in the first book, and Lars does other things (I remember what, but hey, spoilers!).  In many ways, this book is the proof of the excellence of Ms McCaffrey’s world-building in the other books.  People are who they are, the system is what it is, and the development of both is perfectly logical and inevitable.  Having enthused about girls being able to be who they want to be, maybe this brings us back to earth with ‘but only within the rules of the society they live in.’  But we can change, indeed we have to change to survive.

I love most of Anne McCaffrey’s books, and I love the way they can cross into each other’s universes – Killa has a trip on a Brain Ship in one of them – which makes me feel that the world building has been fully rounded.  I think I might have gone to be a Crystal Singer – but I’m afraid I might have failed the test.  But as someone else says in one of their Goodreads reviews – nearly all Anne McCaffrey’s books feature a woman who is exceptional, whose talent is ignored, who breaks out with or without anyone’s help, makes a huge success of it, and generally finds a gorgeous man who adores her for it.  Then again, what’s wrong with that?

PS  The cover is on the book I have… it’s dated 1982.  Just saying…

Ballybran in The Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffrey

41 thoughts on “Ballybran in The Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffrey

  • 2 April, 2016 at 11:50 am

    “nearly all Anne McCaffrey’s books feature a woman who is exceptional, whose talent is ignored, who breaks out with or without anyone’s help, makes a huge success of it, and generally finds a gorgeous man who adores her for it. Then again, what’s wrong with that?”

    Can’t honestly find anything wrong with that at all!

    Twitter: @KnottyMarie
    Literary Gold
    Jingle Jangle Jungle

    • 3 April, 2016 at 8:57 pm

      Me neither. I was surprised so many people on Goodreads seemed to criticise the books for this.

  • 2 April, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I’ve heard of her, of course, but I don’t think I’ve read any of her books to date. Oops. I think my TBR just exploded! *lol*

    LuAnn (approx #369 on the list) @ Back Porchervations.
    (and one of co-host AJ Lauer’s #wHooligans)

    • 2 April, 2016 at 1:08 pm

      It sure will, LuAnn. If you like your fantasy with feudal worlds and dragons, go for the Pern series, if you prefer spaceships and people overcoming accidents, start with the Ship Who Sang. If you like high drama with a touch more romance, go for the Crystal Singer. 🙂

  • 2 April, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Love McCaffrey. I got into the Pern books in Jr. high and never lost my taste for them, though I like the early books better than where she took the world later. Another great series (and another well-realized world) is her Freedom trilogy.

    • 2 April, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Yes – I always forget what they’re called!

      • 3 April, 2016 at 5:15 pm

        Had to look it up 😉

        • 3 April, 2016 at 8:58 pm

          I just (re)found the Petaybee trilogy from the keywords of the world as I remembered it 🙂

  • 2 April, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve heard of McCaffrey but never read any of her books – something else to try sometime. I do have a book for you that I know you will enjoy – it’s called Oy Yew (yes, that’s the name of the book!)

    • 2 April, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      I’ve seen that mentioned on the Great Middle Grade Reads group. with nearly 500 on my TBR list, I’m trying not to put any on now. I mean – thant’s over 10 years’ reading!

    • 2 April, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Noelle, I’ve just done some more housekeeping on my site. Hopefully the comments won’t get lost for a while, until the next upgrade is required ….

  • 2 April, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Impressive memory! Good luck with the challenge.

    • 2 April, 2016 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks, Stuart. Some books stay with you longer than others. But then, if I could find my glasses more often… and someone had to bring a sweater I’d left behind earlier today!

  • 2 April, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    I haven’t read any of her books, but from the covers I’ve seen, the strong female MC seems apparent. And hey, strong females need love too. 🙂

  • 2 April, 2016 at 11:53 pm

    At one time we had all of her books. My kids devoured them.

    • 3 April, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      I had more at one stage, too. I think I lost a boxfull in one of my moves 🙁

  • 3 April, 2016 at 1:07 am

    I love when different books meet up, like with Charlaine Harris. I get so excited. Anyway, intriguing book, will have to check it out! //fellow challenger

  • 3 April, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Hi there!

    I’m stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge. Nice post…love the book cover.

    I have two blogs in this challenge…my author blog at THE STORY CATCHER ( and my KICKS Kids Club blog (

    If you get a chance, check them out and good luck with the challenge!

    • 3 April, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      Hi Donna! I’ll get over to you later today, probably. So much to do, so little time 🙂

  • 3 April, 2016 at 4:06 am

    I want to read this now! Also – looking forwArd to checking out the flash fiction Fridays!

    • 3 April, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      It’s a dangerous thing, this AtoZ – you end up with even more TBRs!

      • 3 April, 2016 at 9:53 pm

        No kidding! My life is filled with pages yet to be read!

  • 3 April, 2016 at 6:31 am

    I’d forgotten this world existed. Not my reading choice and amazed I managed to follow your post. Nothing wrong with strong women getting what they want regardless of what others tell them. Great to catch up again, must be April!

    • 3 April, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Indeed – it is April – and I’m loving your pictures popping into my email inbox. I’ll be over to say something soon!

    • 3 April, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Yes, you should definitely read at least one of the series, Anna!

  • 3 April, 2016 at 5:17 pm

    Wow! It sounds like a great premise 😀 I have heard about the author before, but never read her work. This one sounds like it would be fun! Thanks for the review 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary

    • 3 April, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      Thanks, Csenge. I think you’d like her. I’ve been trying to remember another series I liked – I think you would too – Powers that Be, the first in the Petaybee trilogy. I can’t say much more without spoilers!

  • 3 April, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Cool theme for the month! I will stop by again.
    I’ve only read one of her dragon books, the first one I think.
    And world building is not my strong suit.

    • 3 April, 2016 at 7:47 pm

      Well, I expect we all say that, Alex 🙂 Thanks for dropping in. xx

    • 4 April, 2016 at 9:51 am

      Yes, indeed – the Dragons of Pern. Why not enter my giveaway, too, Susan 🙂

      • 5 April, 2016 at 2:01 am

        Excellent, thank you – just did so! And, yes, the Dragons of Pern is probably where I heard her! Thanks!

  • 4 April, 2016 at 6:42 am

    I’m always amazed at the world-building skills of fantasy/sci-fi writers. 🙂
    I’ve heard of Anne McCaffrey but I’ve never read any of her stuff.

      • 4 April, 2016 at 9:53 am

        Thanks, Michelle – I shall swing by soon. I think I’ve probably mentioned all her series in the comments already – something for everyone!

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