The first book in the Tower and Hive series, published September 1991.
The Talents were the elite of the Nine Star League. Their gifts were many and varied, ranging from the gently telepathic, to the rare and extremely valued Primes. On the Primes rested the entire economic wealth and communications systems of the civilised worlds. But Primes were scarce – only very rarely was a new one born.
And now, on the planet Altair, in a small mining colony on the western mountain range, a new Prime existed, a three year old girl – trapped in a giant mud slide, that wiped out the rest of the Rowan mining community. Every Altairian who was even mildly talented could “hear” the child crying for help, but no one knew exactly where she was buried.
Every resource on the planet was centered into finding “The Rowan” – the new Prime, the first ever to be born on Altair, an exceptionally unique Prime, more talented, more powerful, more agoraphobic, more lonely, than any other Prime yet known in the Nine Star League.
The Rowan, a new concept, a new legend, from the creator of the Dragons of Pern.
When The Rowan was three years old, she lost her family in a mudslide. She was only spared because her mother had left her in the hopper, while she ran through the rain to get some groceries inside. It had been raining for weeks, and no one new, the mud avalanche was building. Not one precog had forseen it. The whole planet heard her crying for days, until she was found.
As a Ward of Altair, The Rowan (named after the mining community she was born in, she could not remember her given name), should be in the care of Altair’s Prime, Siglen. But Siglen didn’t care much for children, and the woman who got the care of The Rowan kept making excuses for letting her stay with her and her children. Which Siglen happily accepted. But at the age of twelve, The Rowan had to go live with her, to be trained as a Prime, in the responsibilities of operating a Tower. Every major planet in the Nine Star League has a Tower, and a Prime, or perhaps a pair of T2’s, to take care of business. Sending cargo, messages and people vessels from one planet to the other, by means of telekinesis, with the help of mighty generators. They are the most important assets a planet has. Of course they earn a lot of money, but the responsibility and work ethic is drilled in them from a young age. The work is hard, and there is no one else who can take it over.
The Rowan is lonely, totally without a family of her own, except for Lusena, and Geraloman, who takes care of the generators in the Tower. And her special pukha, named Purza. An upgrade to a normal stuffed animal, a being programmed to offer comfort and reassurance to a lonely child. But there are no children to play with, or time to be a child.
Earth Prime Reidinger has concocted a scheme to bring her in contact with other Talented children, out of whom she someday has to form her own Tower personnel. At first Rowan tries to blend in, but she soon discovers that as she is the Prime, her word is law. They will have to listen to her, and respect her. Some she likes, some not, but none of them is becoming anything close to a friend.
When Rowan looses her Purza thanks to a jealous cousin of Lusena, she is inconsolable. Siglen is unfeeling about it, she should have been weaned from that toy a long time ago! But thanks to Geraloman, Rowan gets a barquecat, which is a huge honor, as they normally only live aboard spaceships. They are better and faster then the humans living aboard in finding minute leaks and vermin.
When Rowan has turned 18, Earth Prime Reidinger (who is a distant grandson of the original Peter Reidinger in the Pegasus books), assigns her her own Tower, on the moon Calisto. And there she lives and works hard for the next 10 years. Her agoraphobia preventing her from travelling to Earth or any of the other planets in the league. Which hurts, as all the other Talents, except the Primes, have no difficulty whatsoever with travelling through space.
Then someday, out of the blue, she gets contacted telepathically by a stranger, for the young planet Deneb VIII, which is supposedly under attack by aliens! Jeff Raven needs help, and he wants her to alert Earth prime and send in the cavalry. But of course, militairy decisions are not made quickly, until Jeff deflects a few missiles to Earth, and they suddenly believe him. And so Deneb is saved for the moment, and Jeff Raven has come to Calisto to meet The Rowan, and thank her for her help. They have an instant connection, and know they are meant for each other. Due to the mindmeld with all the other Prime Talents in the Nine World League, they already know each other intimately, even though they are still strangers.
Of course Deneb has to pay heavily for the help they have gotten, and thank to the weeks of attack, and the fact that 2/5 of their young population has been killed, they are virtually bankrupt. Jeff has been drafted by Earth Prime, but Deneb has not yet earned the privilege of their own Tower with a Prime. Will their relationship last, when The Rowan is unable to travel to her beloved?
I’ve read this series so often now, and I still highly enjoy it. Especially this book. And I absolutely adore that cover! Every time I read it, I stare at it for a few minutes.
The book is divided in parts, detailing a part of the life of The Rowan (Rowan for short). Her childhood and youth, her time on Calisto, the Deneb part, and of course, the last part ;)
You have to love and admire Rowan, she is such a great character, such a strong little girl to cope with everything that comes on her path. Her path is not easy, and often very lonely. With the small exception of her onetime summer fling, at 18.
If you like sci-fi with some romance thrown into it, with great characters, I heartily recommend this series. Totally no need to read the Pegasus series first. Anne McCaffrey has a very distinct writing “voice”. Very descriptive, a great pace, the books are never boring, though sometimes a little too much techno talk for me to follow.
I know, I am turning into a book pimp. Just wait for when I will be re-reading and reviewing the Pern series (again!).