RogerBW's Blog

The Language of Power, Rosemary Kirstein 10 July 2022

2004 fantasy/SF, fourth of its series. Rowan the Steerswoman returns to the port town of Donner, to try to learn more about the fallen Guidestar and the wizard who made it fall.

Nobody else writes about things quite like this. By this point in the series it has become fairly clear just what the wizards are, if not quite how they became that; and how, if not why, they rule over the rest of the population; and how, if not why, one of them has taken steps to provoke a war for survival between the people of the civilised lands and the barbarian Outskirters. This book partly answers some of those questions, and raises more.

But that's not even what it's about; it's about the scientific mindset, the spirit of enquiry, the mental flexibility to learn even when what you're learning seems to defy common sense and practicality. It's about kidnapping a dragon. It's about robbing a wizard's stronghold for the really valuable thing kept there: knowledge.

And, on a brutally practical level, Rowan and Bel spend most of this book working together again after their separation last time, which is much more to my taste than splitting them up was; an old friend from the first book reappears; and time is passing, and people have been changed by events that we didn't see.

Not to mention that much of the action of the first half consists of finding and piecing together clues to something that happened two generations ago, the sort of practical historical research that I enjoyed in A Talent for War and I love here.

These books may perhaps be my favourites of all the fiction I've read.

This is the last of the series to date; Kirstein got cancer and took a while to recover. She's working on the next book, but there's no estimated date for completion. I hope one day to read it.

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Previous in series: Lost Steersman, The | Series: The Steerswoman

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