The Merro Tree, Katie Waitman, Del Rey, 1997out of print but used copies are in circulation
To have liked this book as as much as I do made not liking the ending a heavy blow to weather. The themes, characters, mythology and the politics of this book are so wonderful and so damnably uplifting and yet semi-realistic enough that it still all sells through and makes you believe in it some how... It is a wonderful book and I am trying to keep that in mind so that I can tell you about it and encourage you to read it. I think the ending and my lack of comfort with items for how magical and fantastic the protagonist is. Of course I can't really whine about the ending directly without spoiling not only the ending but a lot about the plot and characters of the book, so I shan't say any more about it directly.
The are many great things about this novel and most (though hardly all) of them are contained in the agile flame-haired body of the long-lived protagonist Mikk. Mikk's life and his development an education are inspiring in so many different ways to hopefully anyone: aspies, neurotypicals, or whatever you are. Another very enjoyable (if quite frustrating amidst it) aspect of this work is how the story and it's complexities are carefully told, and how the present situation of Mikk's imprisonment has come to be. The themes of civil disobedience to protest unjust laws are strong as messages and are also quite important to the plots. Another amazing and import message in the book in that love respects no boundaries. That's a pretty wonderful idea to throw around and to believe in, even if only for the length of a novel. Another thing handled matter-of-factly in the story and its universe is plurality .. of everything. There are many alien species (not nearly all bipedal or humanoid ,, in fact most seem to neither), differing religions, genres and forms of art, and yes cultural disputes, and war (terrible nasty real-sounding wars) and all of that and more is normal and hardly even noteworthy. And in addition to this there are also Terrans (us!) and the author has then pretty dead on from what I can tell. The only other setting that comes close to selling believable , alien aliens with humans right there (so you call tell) like that in my experience is Brin's Uplift books.
To wrap up then: This is a really fantastic novel fun of strange and delightful things riding powerful positive themes about what people are capable of when they are inspired, bridging differences of species, culture, and worse. The reason, I think, I did not like the ending is that I didn't know the book was a fairy tale. For a work that deals with adult themes like jealousy, corruption, trade unions, and relativistic travel and communication (among else) it is strange to see it as a juvenile novel after all, though an excellent one indeed.
Note:This from me of course who when reading some critiques of Stranger in a Strange Land was quite surprised by the notion common to the reviewers there that the religion depicted in the book far from being advocated by the author (Heinlein) was a straw man set up by him to make political points and no rational person would ever think to try it. I'll have to be sure not to greet them with "Thou art god." as they might take it the wrong way and boil me down for soup without meaning it right.