Kirstein's 'Steerswoman' series had been highly recommended to me - and did not disappoint in the slightest. It's fun, well-crafted, well-characterized adventure with an original set-up and believable culture(s). Rowan is a Steerswoman. As the title might indicate, she is adept at nautical navigation, but the main goal of Steerswomen is to collect (and dissemintate) knowledge and information, write it down, and deliver it to Archives. As a valuable source of information, Steerswomen are greatly respected and deferred to. People think there is little they do not know. But Rowan has come across a mystery - some strange 'jewels,' the source of which is unknown, and about which strange rumors have collected. At a tavern, she meets Bel, a woman of the dangerous, barbarian Outskirts, who owns a whole belt fashioned of these jewels. Bel tells Rowan that her father crafted the belt, but that she could guide Rowan to the place where he found them, if she is up for a challenging journey. However, then the two women are attacked - and wizards seem to be behind it. Wizards are the traditional rivals of Steerswomen - but usually they keep out of each other's way, avoiding violence. What is it about these jewels that the wizards want kept secret?
Although the book is styled as a fantasy, it is obvious to the reader that this is a colony world, and that many of the things that these people consider to be magic are actually vestiges of high technology. Watching Bel and Rowan discover truths about their world is fascinating - but equally of interest is watching two culturally different people become fast friends.
I love this series! It is so insightful and mysterious - it's like our world, but 1 degree off, and the fun part is trying to decipher what is the same/different in this world. Highly recommended!
Wonderful intelligent fantasy
Rowan the steerswoman was dedicated to the discovery of knowledge, and the mystery of the jewels was too compelling to resist. She never guessed that her search for the jewels' origins would lead her dangerously close to the forbidden lore of the wizards, who would not hesitate to kill to protect their jealously guarded secrets...
I cannot recommend this series highly enough. The characters are so well developed and the concept is unique in my reading experience. These are books that look like fantasy, but are actually sf set in a long lost colony world that has so completely lost its technology that chemistry and electricity are 'magic' that wizards do.
perhaps my favorite of the series - the initial book provides both the elements of science fiction/fantasy within a mystery.
I was glad to finally find this book, as I had been wanting to read it for some time. Good quality sci-fi, with some fantasy elements thrown in.