Review of KINDLE Ebook The Outskirter’s Secret – Book 2 of The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein

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This is the second book in this excellent series – read my review of The Steerswoman here – and it takes the stakes ever higher and in a fascinating plot twist, this series then acquires a science fiction dimension. I’m not the only one who thinks this author is special – awesome book blogger the Captain over at Captain’s Quarters recently highlighted Rosemary Kirstein in her Broadside series.

Two shining lights hung above, motionless in the night sky as the constellations slowly passed behind them. The common folk knew them well, and used them to count the hours, mark the seasons. But when the steerswoman Rowan discovered a number of broken blue jewels of clearly magical origin, her investigations led to a startling discovery: a Guidestar had fallen. There were more than two; the others hung above the opposite side of the world; something had caused one of those to fall. But what? And what might it mean? Rowan had no answers… But she knew one thing: where the fallen Guidestar was located. To reach it, she must cross the Inner Lands and pass deep into the wild and deadly Outskirts. Rowan’s traveling companion, Bel, is an Outskirter herself. Together the steerswoman and the warrior-poet have a chance of surviving the cruel landscape, the barbarian tribes, and the bizarre native wildlife.

I love this book – Kirstein’s adventurous, intelligent protagonist pings off the page. Steerswomen are constantly on the road, mapping and enquiring about anything that takes their interest – they wear a livery that lets everyone know who they are and the deal is they are bound to honestly answer any question that is put to them. However, if someone refuses to answer one of their questions, they are then entitled to ignore any of their subsequent questions. Rowan has become intrigued by rare blue gems she has noticed – and that interest has put her on a dangerous path.

The Outskirts are known to be hazardous and Rowen is accompanied by Bel, who was born there – which is just as well. The area is full of life-ending traps for the unwary and becomes almost another character, given the detail of this imaginary lethal landscape Kirstein portrays, as Rowan and Bel try to track down where they think the fallen Guidestar may have fallen. We get a ringside seat as the intrepid duo tangle with the insects, fight off demons and goblins and attempt to navigate their way through these hostile grasslands. They also encounter the nomadic tribes that cris-cross the vast terrain and end up travelling with them, sharing their triumphs and their catastrophes as they make their way towards the crash site of the Guidestar.

I’m not in the business of providing spoilers, so I won’t be mentioning more about the story arc – but I haven’t stopped thinking about this one since I completed it. The progression and consequences of what happens left me with my jaw dragging on the ground. I’d already worked out that one of the main supporting characters wasn’t all he seemed – but the climactic conclusion to this leg of Rowan’s travels was so coolly apt, I am raring to get hold of the next book in this superb series.

While this one could easily be read as a standalone, I do recommend you go back and get hold of The Steerswoman – this series is simply too good to skimp. As for me – I’ve got some books I need to read first, but as soon as I’m able, I’m going to revisit this world with The Lost Steersman.
10/10

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10 responses »

  1. Another high rating! You are on a roll with great reads, Sarah. I have several authors on my wish list now because of you!

  2. I had a very sad reflection while reading your review. I remember your first review of the book not because of the book’s content, but because of the horrible cover (that I remember was not good enough for the great content you said there was inside!), and my first thought was… “oh, it’s the horrible cover series!” – I feel sad, because your reviews convince me these books are really worth a look, but the cover design really discourages me from checking them out.
    This, of course, has nothing to do with your excellent reviews – I just couldn’t resist the thought of how important it is to have a good cover judging on my reaction.

    • That’s really interesting! I like the covers as I think the maps are intriguing – the originals had some rather generic person featured and I think these are more appropriate and better fit the content:). It might be a cultural bias – I’m aware UK covers are more likely not to feature people, but go with object. However – these books are wonderful and I’m conscious that I have the other two waiting for me and am caught between wanting to get on with the story and not wanting the series to end.

      • Oh, to me it’s not what is on the cover, but the quality itself: all the elements used – the map, the reeds (?), and the font – scream “amateur”, as if someone had put it in MS Paint in 15 minutes.
        I might not be a professional designer, but I’ve been reading about cover design and the vital elements of it, and these covers miss all the marks 😦 making them look like very unprofessional.
        And from my little experience with self-published books, the ones with the horrible covers usually have horrible content too, and even though I know it doesn’t necessarily has to be true, the concern about the quality lingers, and that’s why I feel the covers are hurting this series a lot.

      • Ahh… of course that’s where someone with your professional training can make a judgement beyond me. This was a series that had been professionally published, but never got the recognition it deserved, so Kirstein evidently took the decision to self publish once the copyright reverted. I had already come across the first one years ago in the library, so was thrilled when I realised I could now own the Kindle version of the whole series.

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