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Weaving the power of music, poetry, and myth into a headlong narrative of nearly overwhelming intensity, Song of Earth and Power is one of the most original fantasy epics of our time, a vast tapestry of relentless suspense, terrible beauty, and brilliant imagination. Originally published years ago in two parts, it now returns in a new edition rewritten by the author and published in a single volume as he originally intended.

Wrote Analog on its original appearance: "A delight A vision of Faery that may owe a bit to a wish to do it right. Read it. Since then, he has written some twenty novels. Now that he has killed a Sidhe, the Crane Women know that they will not stop until they catch him, so they give him what they can, which is unfortunately only advice, and he crosses the Blasted Plane on foot, evading the monsters there only by means of using the training the Crane Women gave him. After he crosses, a shadow of Alyons comes to him and tells Michael that since Michael killed him, he must now accept Alyons' horse.

Michael argues that he didn't kill Alyons; a trap set by the Isomage did, but it is to no avail; as a matter of honor he must accept the horse. So he does, and the horse makes his travel quicker. He comes to a golden valley where there is a beautiful palace, inhabited by a man named Lin Piao Tai. It turns out that he is a Spryggla, neither human nor Sidhe, one of the few remaining of the many races that existed long ago, before the Human Sidhe war. The Spryggla were skilled architects.

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Lin Piao tells Michael a lot about the past, and how Humans were losing the war, until the Isomage was able to put up a final resistance which the Sidhe were unable to break, and thus fight them to an standstill and an uneasy, millennia-long truce. Lin Piao is very excited that he has a book containing the poem "Kubla Khan", because it is the first part of a Song of Power, and the Isomage had him build another part of the same Song architecturally.

The valley that Lin Piao Tai lives in is also his prison, however, and Michael begins to suspect that he won't let him leave either.

"Infinity Concerto" by Greg Bear

The Sidhe have crippled Lin Piao Tai's magic with a weakness: the color blue is his undoing, and a blue flower that Michael had earlier pressed into the book falls out from between the pages, setting off a magical chain reaction that destroys the Spryggla's creations and turns him to stone. Michael travels onward and meets a human man named Nikolai, who has been living in a forest as a hunter. He was originally a dancer, and was pulled into the Sidhe world just as the Isomage's war was ending.

He is welcome in the Sidhe city of Inyas Trai, however, and he takes Michael there. Michael meets the Ban of Hours, a powerful Sidhe woman who tries to protect him, but not far from the city is the Irall, the Temple of Adonna, which would certainly punish Michael for Alyons' death if they caught him. Nikolai takes Michael to see a rare phenomenon known as the Snow Faces that occurs in the nearby mountains, where he meets some other pilgrims who have also come to see it. Michael is brought before the god Adonna itself, who reveals itself to be Tonn, ancient Mage of the Sidhe, though most have forgotten this and now simply worship him as the god Adonna.

Tonn reveals that he is growing tired and Sidhedark, which he created, will soon crumble and die, along with all within it. The only way to save the Sidhe is for Sidhedark and Earth to be reunited, but for the followers of Adonna, who hate humans, this is a blasphemy that they would never accept, even if Adonna itself told them.

So Tonn needs Michael's help, but first he must deal with the Isomage, who has been manipulating Michael from the beginning. Tonn temporarily erases most of Michael's memory of the conversation and sends him back. Michael, Nikolai and some of the pilgrims decide to go to the Isomage's palace, but on the way, Michael meets Biri again. He says that he has failed in his training to become part of the Maln, the Black Order, and now despises them.

He attempts to teach Michael more about how Sidhe do magic, taking a bitter, solipsistic approach, claiming that to do magic one must emotionally isolate oneself from all love and companionship. Biri leaves Michael to contemplate this. As the group approaches the Isomage's residence, the pilgrims reveal that they are actually retainers in the Isomage's employ, and that they are there to make sure that Michael gets there safely—and that he doesn't change his mind and go elsewhere.

Reaching the palace, Michael finds that it is as Lin Piao Tai said: a beautifully-constructed copy of Kubla Khan's palace from the poem. Michael meets the Isomage, who turns out to be David Clarkham, and tells him that Tonn stole the book from him, but Clarkham doesn't care, he has many copies of the poem along with other works of human literature.

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Biri is also there; he says that the Isomage represents his best chance for revenge against the Maln. Clarkham finally reveals what he wants Michael there for: Michael is a poet, and Clarkham is not. He wants Michael to finish the Song of Power. Michael, however, suspects that while Clarkham seems to want to help humans, he really just wants power for himself—he wants to overthrow the Sidhe and set himself up as ruler instead.

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After discovering some other very unsavory things about Clarkham, he is unwilling to help him obtain ultimate power, but Clarkham threatens Michael with the death of Nikolai and with horrible magical torture for Michael himself if he doesn't cooperate. But suddenly Michael sees the form of the rest of the Song of Power and realizes that it isn't at all what Clarkham thinks it is. Michael writes a poem about the destruction of the great Khan's palace, the inevitable ending of the Song, and Clarkham's palace starts to collapse around them.

As it is taking all his power to hold the palace together, Clarkham can't stop Michael and Nikolai from escaping, and Biri reveals that he did not in fact fail in his training and that he has been working for the Maln all along, helping Michael get to the Isomage to destroy him.

Clarkham manages to attack Michael magically, but Michael throws a shadow consisting of all of the training that Biri had given him, which absorbs the attack and dies in his place. Now that Michael had done what Tonn wanted, Tonn gives Michael what he wants: passage back home. Michael falls through the portal that Tonn creates and finds himself just down the street from Clarkham's house, but five years have passed on Earth in what had seemed like only about five months to Michael. His parents are happy that he is alive but upset that he hadn't told them where he'd gone, and they are astonished about how much he has changed.

Michael finds a letter from Arno Waltiri's wife Golda, who had died about two weeks after her husband, leaving all of their assets to him but also giving him the responsibility of editing and publishing all of Waltiri's compositions. But meanwhile, Michael knows that Sidhedark is still collapsing and that the being who was Waltiri is most certainly not dead. He may be home, but his troubles are far from over. The book begins and ends in the human world, in the present day in the s, when the book was published, in southern California , but most of the story takes place in the alternate world of Sidhedark.

Sidhedark is another plane, world, or dimension, another place where the physical laws are different from what we know. Humans don't need to sleep there though many do, just out of habit , and when they do, they don't dream. Unlike the book's version of Earth, in which humans are unequivocally stated to have souls that live on after death, in Sidhedark humans who die simply cease to exist. Likewise, it is quite bad for humans to give birth to children there, because there are no souls to enter their bodies, so horrible abominations take up residence in them instead.

The god Adonna, who created Sidhedark, seems not to have given its world quite as much permanence as the human world has. It is possible for beings with enough knowledge and willpower to cause temporary changes.

Some call this "magic", but it is really just a consequence of Adonna's creation not being as stable as some worlds are. No map appears in the book, but it does describe locations: a small corner of Sidhedark is known as the Pact Lands, containing the human town of Euterpe and the Breed town of Halftown, as well as the Isomage's house. The Blasted Plain itself is a desertlike landscape punctuated by poisonous pools of viscous liquids.

In it dwell a number of Adonna's abortions—failed creations that live out their twisted existences in pain or madness; they were originally buried beneath the ground, but the magical war that created the Plain freed them. To cross the Plain requires either some form of talisman to repel the abortions or a Sidhe horse, fast enough to outrun them and wise enough to sense and avoid them. Tens of millions of years ago, there was but one world inhabited by 30 races, including the humans, the Sidhe, the Cledar, the Spryggla, and the Urges.

Over time, four great leaders arose, calling themselves the Mages: Manus of the humans sometimes called the Serpent Mage , Tonn of the Sidhe, Aum of the Cledar, and Daedal of the Spryggla. There were many lesser mages, however, and they quarreled with each other, these quarrels turning into conflicts and wars. In a world of magic, though, death wasn't forever; wounds could be magically healed and souls resurrected.

At one point the humans defeated the Sidhe, and Manus, the Serpent Mage of the humans, used his magic to take away the Sidhe's souls. Every other race lived on metaphysically after the death of their bodies, but the Sidhe would no longer do so. However, in the end the Sidhe won, and Tonn, the Mage of the Sidhe, took vengeance upon each of the other races by transforming them into animals: the humans became tiny shrews apparently their original form was somewhat dragonlike , the Cledar became birds, the Spryggla became whales and dolphins, and the Urges became roaches.

Only the humans have recovered from this to any extent, evolving into primates and developing a civilization, and it has taken them tens of millions of years. The Sidhe then moved to a world that Tonn created for them.

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Tonn's daughter Elme fell in love with a human named Akse, bearing many children with him, the first Breeds, but most Sidhe hated humans for what they had done to the Sidhe. During the development of human civilization, Tonn tried to keep the humans from rediscovering magic and acquiring a Song of Power, pretending to be various gods including Yahweh and Baal, discouraging creativity and change. Elme, however, formed the Council of Eleu to try to help the humans improve and become a race the Sidhe could accept as equals.

Tonn's wife sided with their daughter, but in a fit of anger he transformed her into a monster. The conflict between the two factions continued.

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Then, decades ago, there was a war between the Sidhe and a powerful Breed sorcerer known as the Isomage, burning a large portion of Sidhedark and creating an area now known as the Blasted Plain; the upheavals also released some of Adonna's unwanted creations that it had hidden underground. Occasionally humans accidentally find their way into Sidhedark and, unable to leave, must make the best of things. Some survive, others don't, and those who do end up in the town of Euterpe, near the Isomage's old house.

The war ended in a ceasefire, but the Isomage still had enough power to force a treaty with the Sidhe; he seems to have been on the humans' side and made them agree to allow the humans to live in peace, with the condition that the Isomage go into exile. Perrin is a teenager, 16 years old, still living with his parents, who seem to be fairly well-off; his father is a carpenter with a clientele that includes several wealthy and famous people. Michael tries to write poetry, but even he considers his efforts unimpressive; what he writes he himself barely understands.

He is a fan of classic films and their scores. But he has hidden depths that even he doesn't know of.