Ahoy there mateys! A long while back in 2017, Matey Sarah @ brainfluff reminded me that this series existed. I had the two books in omnibus form and they were five stars reads. Then Matey Sarah told me there were two more books in the series! So I recently I re-read the omnibus and then moved into new territory with book three. While I try to post no spoilers, proceed at your own peril . . .
The main character of these books is a steerswoman named Rowan who is the member of “an order dedicated to discovering and disseminating knowledge.” This order is almost all women. Men are very, very rare. A steerswoman shares her knowledge for free and does not lie. All she asks in return is that if she asks any question then it must be freely answered. Don’t answer and a steerwoman’s knowledge is cut off forever. Steerswoman are intelligent, respected, and awesome. They are in control of their own destiny, travel constantly, and better the world.
The first book started with the mystery of an unusual stone and took place in Rowan’s homeland. The second book is set in the region called the Outskirts where Rowan’s best friend, Bel, lives. Rowan goes there to solve the mystery of the stones. She finds an answer but it only leads to more questions. In the third book, Rowan finds herself in the company of Janus, a steersman who quit the Order under mysterious conditions. Janus isn’t talking, demons are attacking, and there is an unusual artifact with mysterious powers. Not to mention the continuing drama of the strange stones and magicians that Rowan is also trying to solve. She thinks all these elements are linked but can’t find the common ground.
Frankly things are a mess. The interesting part of this book is that Rowan is forced to stay put in one town and do tasks that aren’t part of her strengths. It is weird but fun to watch her struggle and make bad choices. It was fun to get insight into “regular” folks lives. I particularly enjoyed Steffie as an addition to the bunch. Assumptions keep being made all around and prejudices challenged.
This book also continues the trend of further blending more sci-fi into the story and it’s cool. Minor plot points that bothered me were how slow on the uptake Rowan could be in this book and that Bel wasn’t a major character. I get the reasons for both (and they made sense) but still bothered me. Also the pacing in the second half of the book was off and Rowan’s explorations and leaps of intuition were unrealistic. I loved a lot of the new elements and plot twists but the reveal took too long for me. I feel like there really wasn’t any momentum to the overall story arc of the series in this book.
Can’t really get into more because of spoilers but I still be looking forward to the next book. Arrrr!
Goodreads has this to say about the omnibus of books one and two (cause the one for three has spoilers):
If you ask, she will answer. If she asks, you must reply. A steerswoman will speak only the truth to you, as long as she knows it—and you must do the same for her. And so, across the centuries, the Steerswomen— questioning, searching, investigating—have slowly learned more and more about the world through which they wander. All knowledge the Steerswomen possess is given freely to those who ask. But there is one kind of knowledge that has always been denied them: Magic.
When the steerswoman Rowan discovers a small, lovely blue jewel of obviously magical origin, her innocent questions lead to secret after startling secret, each more dangerous than the last—and suddenly Rowan must flee or fight for her life. Or worse, she must lie.
With every wizard in the world searching for her, Rowan finds unexpected assistance. A chance-met traveler turned friend, Bel is a warrior-poet, an Outskirter, and a member of a barbaric and violent people. Or, so it would seem.
For Bel, unknowing, possesses secrets of her own: secrets embedded in her culture, in her people, in the very soil of her homeland. From the Inland Sea to the deadly Outskirts, surrounded by danger and deceit, Rowan and Bel uncover more and more of the wizards’ hidden knowledge. As the new truths accumulate, they edge closer to the single truth that lies at the center, the most unexpected secret of them all. . . .
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