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'The Steerswoman' by Rosemary Kirstein RugbyPlayingAshaman Send a noteboard - 26/10/2010 06:16:45 PM
While wandering around the Tor website to read Leigh's 'Wheel of Time' re-read (I believe this is the second time they've attempted this), I came across a post titled 'Future Classics: Best Science Fiction by women written 2001-2010'. Innocently, I read through the article and randomly ran a Google search for Rosemary Kirstein. The series looked promising, so I ordered a copy of 'The Steerswoman's Road' from Amazon. As a Prime member, I received it in two days, and ever since, I've become completely engrossed in the world and the mind of the main character.

Ms. Kirstein has done a great job creating a protagonist - Rowan is a very well realized individual with an interesting personality, a charming set of quirks and strengths that balance quite weel with her foibles. She's a Steerswoman, which in her world can be compared to a detective, scientist, explorer and mathematician rolled into one. The fact that these roles often result from personal characteristics make the identity of her self agree quite well with her occupation, so that the reader can get an idea how important truth is to her. There are quite a few moments in the book where we are lead through Rowans' process of deductive reasoning, and while there is no lack of action, it is often how she pits her intelligence against her environment and competitors that drives the majority of the action.

The other major character, Bel, has no POVs, but as a warrior from the far-flung wilderness of the outskirts, she is a good balance for the more intellectually-minded Rowan. She's short, has a fiery temper and enjoys using her sword. She's also a good cook, singer of bardic tales and a woman who favors the direct approach. She's quite well-rendered so while you don't see the world through her eyes, you don't need to - it's her reaction to Rowan that is often more entertaining, and this makes the reader more able to think of her as a mystery even while considering her a friend. The fact that she avoids becoming a caricature speaks highly of her development.

It's the decision to have the vast majority of the viewpoint focused on Rowan that really gives this story legs. Rowan is extremely intelligent, but she is a product of her world - I will not reveal spoilers, but this book is more of a science fiction book than it is a fantasy story, thus some of the core mystery of the series are things that a reader will go "Ah ha!" over even while the characters can't figure out how their world operates. Magic in this world is extremely incomprehensible to most folk in Rowans' world, while being both mysterious and very familiar to us modern Earthlings. Towards the end of the first book, the reader should have a very good idea why things happen the way they do on this planet, how the magic of the Wizards works and how this world came to be.

The story itself is rather simple: Rowan finds an item of unknown use and she proceeds to investigate it. She arouses the attention of the Wizards, who send assassins after her, and she spends most of the novel avoiding them, while making her way to the headquarters of the Steerswomen and Steersmen, called the Archives. After that, she has to travel incognito, and this can be said to be the slow part of the novel - we get another POV character named Willam, who is sympathetic and has a lot of potential as a character, in order to give room for Rowan to adopt a false identity. This slow part doesn't lag that long, though, and the story picks up at just the right time. The last few chapters are very interesting and some parts are funny, while others are thought-provoking - especially to the readers who have a pretty good idea or a few theories as to what Rowan's mysterious item is ;).

It's a great book, and I look forward to reading others in this series. I'd give Book 1 an 8 or 8.5 out of 10!
"Those who think they have no time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness."
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'The Steerswoman' by Rosemary Kirstein - 26/10/2010 06:16:45 PM 4632 Views

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