Jenny's Library

Reading Round-up 2014: week 7 – more Rosemary Kirstein

Posted on: July 14, 2014

cover image for The Lost SteersmanThe Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein

Following the devastating and tragic events of The Outskirter’s Secret, Rowan and Bel have temporarily parted ways.  Bel is staying behind with her own people, to do what she can to keep them safe, and to help maintain peace between the Outskirts and the  Inner Lands.  Rowan, after informing the Archives of what she has learned, has settled for a time in Alemeth, hoping to find some clues as to the location and identity of Slado in the disordered records there.  While there she runs into Janus, the lost Steersman, and is faced with the dilemma of wishing she could trade information with him while he remains under the Steerswomen’s ban.  When Outskirter demons begin attacking Alemeth, and it becomes clear that Janus is no stranger to dealing with them, Rowan knows that she must learn his secrets, no matter the cost.

There’s a definite shift in tone in this book, largely due to Bel’s absence.  As much as I missed the banter and teamwork between the two women, this is still an amazing book.  Kirstein’s ability to explain things scientifically and clearly, and with prose that remains imaginative and engaging, is used extensively here.  It’s hard to imagine anyone else writing scenes like the ones in which Rowan investigates the demons, especially while also maintaining such a clear point of view and tight but logical control over how much is being revealed.

cover image for The Language of PowerThe Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

Rowan continues her quest to track down Slado, and this time her investigation has brought her to the town of Donner.  Bel is with her once again, as is William, the magician’s apprentice the two women met and fought beside in The Steerswoman.  They are hoping that investigating the succession change from the current wizard, Jannik, and the one before him, Kieran – to whom Slado was once an apprentice, may yield some useful clues as to Slado’s identity and location.  But time is quickly running out for the trio, as the threat of the remaining Guidestars’ destructive power grows with every day that passes.

It may seem from the synopsis that Rowan’s search is going painstakingly slowly, but I assure you that’s only because discussing the extent of the progress she’s made would involve revealing major spoilers for all of the books. The overall search does take time, as such investigations almost always do, but that’s largely because each new bit of information Rowan finds prompts even more questions.  Rowan’s real progress is in learning to ask better questions, something that’s especially evident in this, the fourth book.  There’s much that Rowan is able to do and figure out in this book that she wouldn’t have been able to in the first, simply because what she has learned in the meantime about the jewels, the Guidestars, demons, magic, and the differences between the Inner Lands and the Outskirts.  All of her discoveries have fundamentally changed Rowan’s perceptions about the world around her, and her actions, decisions, and inner dialogue in The Language of Power makes that extremely clear.  This entire series is amazing for the ways that it shows how research, science, and logical thinking really work to change how we understand things, which is a big part of why I love it so.

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