McCaffrey focuses on Killashandra's drive to excel as a performer and a crystal singer. Killashandra herself notes that her desires to be a Stellar-class opera diva and a crystal singer are actually the same: to be first-class. Both professions also emphasize solo performance—to be the only center of attention, in operatic productions or in dramatic crystal-mounting or repair. While Killashandra seems rather blind to her obsession, the reader soon sees the dark side to her virtuoso drive.
This professional compulsion is much like crystal-thrall, which blocks out memories of the past and thoughts of personal safety, and which inhibits compassion for others and encourages selfish elitism.
Killashandra explores the vices and virtues of excellence and ambition.