Reunited with her friend Bel, the steerswoman Rowan is once more on the trail of the wizard Slado. But when her enquiries lead her to the place Slado learned magic, she encounters another figure from her past and finally learns some of the answers to her questions–although the consequences are not what she expects.
The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein is the fourth and last published book in the Steerswoman series. I’ve read the first three previously, and wanted to get to the end of the current series to see if Rowan finally figures out what is happening.
Overall, this wasn’t a full resolution to the questions and conflicts of the series. But since I know that Kirstein is hoping to eventually release at least a fifth book, I was at least prepared for this to be the case. And there is enough of an answer that it doesn’t feel like wasted effort to read.
One of the things I’ve liked about these books is that Rowan is depicted as a competent character, overall assured of her purpose and place in the world. She knows what her values are and attempts to live by them to the best of her ability. Most of the tension comes from either her search for Slado or those moment when she’s not able to live by those values.
All of that adds up to a book and series which straddle genre lines–part fantasy, part science fiction, part mystery–and which is not quite plot-driven and not quite character-driven. This may sound like a criticism, but I mean it as an explanation; this is a story which embraces ambiguity and which keeps the reader guessing about its ultimate goals and intentions. It certainly won’t be for everyone, but I suspect the readers who have found it and love it do so with a quietly fervent passion.
That being said, I do feel that the plot was slightly annoying here because it relies on a twist that has been used several other times in the series. And while it could be that this is purposeful and significant, it felt more to me like lazy storytelling.
However, in terms of the broader picture, I do feel that enough of the lingering questions have been answered that I’m okay leaving the series here for now. Hopefully Kirstein will be able to release more books in the series, but if that doesn’t happen, the story still feel relatively complete.
(There’s quite a bit more I could say but it would be full of spoilers, so I’ll leave it for now.)
All in all, while this isn’t a series I would push on everyone, I do hope that it finds more readers. It’s a fascinating look at a world that’s driven by ideas and knowledge, an interesting older female character who’s competent & assured and never punished for that, and some interesting twists and turns along the way. If that sounds like it might be your thing, do give these a try and let me know what you think!
Other books in the series: