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Singer in the Snow
Louise Marley
Viking, 304 pages

Singer in the Snow
Louise Marley
Louise Marley has been a classical concert and opera singer for 15 years. She sings with the Seattle Symphony, has concertized in Russia and Italy, and is alto soloist at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. She holds a Master's Degree in Voice. Her novels include the trilogy The Singers of Nevya and The Terrorists of Irustan.

Louise Marley Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Child Goddess
SF Site Review: The Maquisarde
SF Site Review: The Maquisarde
SF Site Review: The Glass Harmonica
SF Site Review: The Glass Harmonica
SF Site Review: The Terrorists of Irustan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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Singer in the Snow is the first young adult novel by Seattle writer Louise Marley. In it, Marley has returned to the world she created for her first three novels: Sing the Light, Sing the Warmth and Receive the Gift.

Marley's career as a singer was the inspiration for Nevya, an ice planet where energy is created psychically through music. People with the "Gift" are trained as cantors and cantrixes, to provide heat and light to small communities scattered across the hostile terrain. Singers train for years at the Conservatory, then at the end of their training they are assigned to a "House" where they may remain for much of the rest of their lives.

Emle is a girl who was sent to the Conservatory at a young age to study and wants to make her family proud. But there's something wrong. Although Emle is clearly Gifted and can sing and play beautifully, no matter how hard she tries she can't generate quiru -- warmth and light.

When Emle cannot pass her final exams, she is sent along with Mreen, the most powerful Cantrix of her generation, to her first posting at the House of Tarus. Mreen is unprecedented -- she is entirely mute and generates psi with her playing alone. She can speak telepathically with other Gifted, but she must use Sign to talk to normal people, and her nervousness makes her seem aloof and arrogant. Hence, friendly Emle is an ideal companion and intermediary.

At the House of Tarus the two young women meet Luke, an awkward, tongue-tied teenager who tends hruss (pack horses) under his stepfather, Axl, the House hrussmaster. Luke and his younger sister, Gwim, are held captive by bonds of secrecy and love for their mother, a gentle, weak woman who will not leave her husband, how matter how much he beats her. Luke, Emle and Mreen are all drawn into trying to help Gwim, who is hiding her newly discovered Gift from her violent stepfather.

As with all of Marley's novels, Singer in the Snow revolves around strongly drawn characters and their problems. All the protagonists in this book are compelling and realistic and it's easy to get swept into their stories. And Marley's love of music gives a real depth to her depiction of the cantrixes, their training, and the sacrifices they're expected to make for their art.

I also enjoyed the depiction of the summer that only comes every four years when Nevya's second sun appears over the horizon, melting the snow for a few brief weeks.

Truthfully, the plot of Singer in the Snow is on the thin side and the ultimate outcome is obvious, but the intensity of the characters and their personal problems, as well as the thoughtfully developed setting, largely make up for that. This is a young adult book but it's very readable for an adult audience as well.

Copyright © 2005 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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