Anyone remember an out-of-print (1980s? 1990s? early 2000s?) middle-grade or ya fantasy novel with a strong female protagonist, where the sea is an important plot component, that has a cover blurb by Ursula Le Guin recommending the book? Thanks!

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    Can you remember anything else about the book? Any details of the plot, any characters other than the main one? Was the book written in English? Where was it set? (As it stands, there might be many possible answers - I'm sure Ursula le Guin has written reviews for a lot of books!)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Feb 6, 2016 at 20:43
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    Try this list, maybe?
    – Micah
    Feb 6, 2016 at 22:03

2 Answers 2


Many thanks for all your comments and suggestions! I was wrong about it being out of print and I just found it -- going through ancient email where I suggested it to a friend. It is Listening At The Gate by Betsy James. Ursula Le Guin said: "Tightly plotted, tautly written, bursting with passion and poetry, Listening at the Gate will transport you to a world both hauntingly familiar and utterly new -- full of love, grief, hope, and wild adventure."


Based on the minimal information provided, it is hard to be certain. But I would go with "Singer from the Sea" by Sherri S. Tepper.

The text on the back reads

A good and proper aristocrat on the isolated, seemingly backward planet of Haven, Genevieve has been carefully instructed in the Covenants -- the ancient, inflexible laws governing the women of her class. She knows what is expected of her: marriage in her mid-twenties to a groom of her father's choosing, childbirth at age thirty. And then soon afterwards -- as has been the lot of so many noblewomen before her -- perhaps death.

But there is another Genevieve within who longs to heed the call of the sea -- though she has never once seen the vast waters that cover most of her homeworld's surface. For an unheard voice is crying out to her across the centuries, drawing her ever-closer to a terrible truth hidden beneath a smoke screen of rules, tradition, and propriety. And it is Genevieve who must fulfill a forgotten destiny -- something inborn passed for untold generations from daughter to daughter -- or she and the entire civilization of Haven will be swept away on a cosmic wave of oblivion.

So the book is clearly centered around a heroine, and the sea is an integral part of the tale.

It was published in 1999, thus meeting the correct time scale.

It doesn't appear on the list that Micah posted, but it really does have a quote from Ursula K. Le Guin at the top of the back which reads

"Sheri S. Tepper takes the mental risks that are the lifeblood of Science Fiction and all imaginative narrative."

(Of course this blurb is really about Tepper in general, not this book in particular. Six Moon Dance which was published at the same time, and is on the list has the same quote on it.)

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