* New settings, new challenges, new immediate perils that prevent Rowan from making the immediate progress she desires towards her larger goal, but end up revealing essential information that significantly advances our understanding of the world. And in a single, elegant movement of thought, so graceful it astonished Rowan herself, the steerswoman created in her mind both the largest map she had ever conceived and the smallest, simultaneously.
I liked this part of the book perfectly well; the townspeople are interesting, particularly Steffie, the young man who is intrigued by the way Rowan thinks and finds himself challenged to broaden his own mental horizons. Kirstein writes what is so hard to pull off well - a completely alien society, not an "alien" society that looks/acts/thinks like humans, only with interesting anatomy or something. I've read a lot of fantasy/sci-fi, and until this book, The Steerswoman series was a perfectly nice, pleasant way to spend an afternoon. You might be able to skip the first book, I'm not sure (although you'd lose tons of character development), but the second book is necessary to read before this one.
I remembered the emotional contours of the story - the tension and nostalgia between Rowan and Janus, the warmth of Steffie's arc, the steadily building frustration (very much like that of The Outskirter's Secret) and then the dramatic upset of the ending. Kirstein's narrative skill astonishes me; I don't think I know any other author who can grip my attention in this very particular way, lead me so effectively down the path of her story. (view spoiler)I know that I resisted Kirstein's lead strongly, which I think is partly why I had such a spotty recollection of the novel's final section. Because Rowan, like the readers, sees the resemblance between Fletcher and Janus and is misled by it, misunderstands what sort of story she is in.
Bilim kurgu ite böyle fantastik gibi gözüken bir kurguyer içinde yaplabilir. Kirstein gene muhteem bir i çkartm.
I picked up the first in the Steerswoman series after reading a review in Eyrie.org (this is a site I don't see mentioned much at all, probably since it's pretty low-key, but I've been following it for many years it's led me to quite a lot of wonderful books, mostly in the fantasy/sci-fi and non-fiction genres). And I really should note here that the series is not yet complete (I didn't know that when I started, as I only read the review of book 1). We do have a fair bit of resolution and closure by the end of book 4, so it still feels satisfying, but if you don't want to get into a series that might never been completed (I think Kirstein is supposed to be working on another book, but it's been 13 years...), this might not be for you. She talks to people and finds out stuff, basically, which she then makes sure is written down and gets to the archives. If anyone refuses to answer a question, or the Steerswoman realises they have lied, then that person is placed under the Steerswomen's ban. This is a world where the Steerswomen's knowledge is considered extremely valuable (they are welcomed pretty much everywhere and will often not have to pay for anything), so the ban is something most people want to avoid. The wizards refuse to answer any questions from Steerswomen, and no one knows what they're about. As the first book starts, Rowan is puzzling over some strange flat blue jewels she's found over the years. And it's just as clear this has got something to do with the jewels, which only makes Rowan more determined to find out what they are. Right at the start of the book, Rowan meets an Outskirter named Bel. Bel owns a belt with some of the blue jewels encrusted in it, and it's her information about where those were found that leads to Rowan deciding to investigate properly -and consequently, puts the wizards after her. Someone like Bel is useful to have around when people are trying to kill you, plus, Rowan recognises and likes the curiosity and intelligence in Bel. Later on they're also joined by a young man named William, who comes from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. The books all follow Rowan, sometimes with Bel and/or William, sometimes not, as she works to solve the mystery of the jewels. Book 1, The Steerswoman, functions as set-up and introduction, but without it feeling like mere worldbuilding. There is a proper plot and we get enough resolution, and we also find out some initial answers (e.g. we find out what the jewels are and have a pretty good idea of where they came from). Having found some answers in the previous book, Rowan decides she needs to go visit the area where the jewels in Bel's belt were found. Rowan has realised she needs to find a particular wizard, and the book builds up to a major confrontation. The focus here is in what we find out about the wizards and what they do, and there are many, many revelations here about the main plot (even if not everything is resolved, Rowan does get a long way towards understanding). For the first time since book 1, we get Rowan working together with both Bel and William (who's spent several years working with the wizards and has learnt a whole lot), which felt lovely. I think my favourite element about this book is (again!) seeing Rowan using her reason to grasp stuff that is just out of her experience completely. Clarke's third law, which states that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Turns out that this is some sort of post-apocalyptic world, where the secrets of the extremely advanced technology of the civilisations that came before were somehow (and we don't quite learn how yet) preserved by a small group of people, the wizards.
The one where Rowan works with other steerswomen (absent, present, past, and future), makes a long journey and an amazing discovery, but doesn't get one step closer to the wizard she's looking for.
They're a celebration of science and exploration, in such a Star Trek meets fantasy novel meets mystery novel kind of way.
This could certainly get amended to the full 5 stars, depending on how things tie back together in book 4.