I read this book longer ago than I care to recall and when I discussed this with Himself, it transpired that somehow this one passed him by. On my recommendation, he bought the ebook which meant I could revisit it – yay!
Steerswomen, and a very few Steersmen, are members of an order dedicated to discovering and disseminating knowledge. Although they are foremost navigators of the high seas, Steerswomen are also explorers and cartographers upon land as well as sea. With one exception, they are pledged to always answer any question put to them with as truthful a response as is possible within their own limitations. However, they also require anyone of whom they ask questions to respond in the same manner, upon penalty of the Steerswomen’s ban; those under the ban do not receive answers from the steerswomen.
This is a delight – an adult fantasy with a nuanced, capable heroine who is comfortable with who she is and commands respect without being a Mary Sue. The world is sharply depicted, mostly through Rowan’s viewpoint without any info dumps and I enjoyed the way the pace steadily picks up as her interest in the jewels begins to attract the wrong sort of attention. The supporting cast are also excellent – no one is depicted as being entirely evil and the gulf between wizards and the rest of the populace is well demonstrated. I love how Kirstein manages to portray the ‘magic’ so the reader is immediately aware of how it works, while it continues to flummox the characters within the story. It’s one of the many deft little touches that continued to please me throughout this well written and thoroughly enjoyable story.
Plenty occurs throughout and the pacing is beautifully judged as the consequences of Rowan’s initial curiosity about those gemstones continue to snowball. By the end, it became an effort to put the book down and I read far later than I should to discover the denouement. I’m aware this is part of a series and couldn’t quite recall how it ended, but was concerned that there might have been the dreaded cliffhanger.
However, the storyline running through the book is satisfactorily tied up, while leaving a couple of major plotpoints dangling for the next book. I’m delighted that Himself decided to buy the other books in the series, so I won’t have to wait before diving back into this enjoyable and fascinating world.