bookish posts reviews

TBR Stacks: The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein

So I’ve finally finished one of the books on my TBR challenge list. Hurray! The Lost Steersman is the third book in the Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein, and I’ve read the first two books previously. It’s a series that does some interesting things with genre conventions, and with the underlying structures of the world.  (There are some non-specific spoilers below, so tread carefully if that’s something that will bother you.)

In The Lost Steersman, we pick up the story with Rowan separated from Bel, living in  the small town of Alemeth and trying so hard to be resigned to her situation. At the same time, she is still trying to find the wizard Slado, looking for him in the shadows, in what is not there. Meanwhile, one of the young people of Alemeth is trying to adjust to the new Steerswoman, who is about to change the course of his life.

It’s always nice to see the deepening of worldbuilding as a series goes on (this is one of the things I love about CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner series) and here Kirstein really delves into the implications of the Steerswoman’s code of conduct. If Rowan believes in it, then she must act in certain ways; if she acts in certain ways, there will be consequences. It causes a kind of thinking that’s what we might call critical thinking but which feels much more fundamental than that within the context of the world. It’s related to what Terry Pratchett calls Second and Third Thoughts in the Tiffany Aching books.

And we also see how it can be used against the Steerswomen, how their commitment to the exchange of knowledge doesn’t mean that they are omnipotent. We see how the flaws in the system can hurt people as well as help them, and yet we also understand Rowan’s ultimate re-commitment to that system and its best practices.

I also was fascinated at the way Kirstein takes our expectations of narrative–that the solution of the problems in this book will advance the main storyline–and upends them. The threat here is not what Rowan thinks it is, and the moment when she finally admits that to herself is really effective.

This is a book about ideas almost more than characters, but I do find Rowan deeply sympathetic in a lot of ways. And there are lots of nicely-written moments in the story. Kirstein has a great understanding of how to move a story forward when long journeys are involved, which other fantasy writers might take notes from. The result is a story that feels tightly wound, propelling us towards a horizon we can’t quite see.

Book source: public library

Book information: 2003, Del Rey; adult specfic


Previously on By Singing Light:

Mary Stewart Reading Notes: The Ivy Tree (2016)

Not the Chosen One (2016)

Dorothy Sayers Reading Notes: Gaudy Night (2015)

book lists bookish posts

Books I added to my TBR: August 2018

Not quite as many books added as last month, but I’m trying something new. All the titles with an * are the latest (or latest I know about) by authors I already have read and liked, and I’m linking back to the reviews that convinced me to add the books where applicable.

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

The Cobbler’s Boy by Elizabeth Bear and Katherine Addison  (via Liz Bourke) *

Arcanos Unraveled by Jonna Gjevre (via Jenny)

The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran (via Colleen Mondor)

Annex by Rich Larson (via The Book Smugglers)

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (via The Book Smugglers) *

Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay (via The Book Smugglers) *

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (via Miss Print)

The Million by Karl Schroeder (via Liz Bourke)

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu (via The Book Smugglers) *

book lists bookish posts

Books I added to my TBR: July 2018

OH BOY OH BOY there are lots of books coming out that I want to read!! Plus all the books that are already out that I am just now hearing about. I didn’t include the reason I’m interested in these, since they seemed fairly repetitive and boring. BUT I will highlight the fact that ZEN CHO HAS A NEW BOOK COMING OUT! and that EK Johnston’s The Afterward sounds amazing for me & my reading interests.  (After the war/quest stories are one of my favorite things.) Also The Widow Queen is a translation of a Polish book and I’m hoping it is wonderful and/or reminds me of Nicola Griffith’s wonderful Hild. 

Recipes For Love and Murder by Sallie Andrew

America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo

The Widow Queen by Elżbieta Cherezińska

The True Queen by Zen Cho

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

The Afterward by EK Johnston

The Poppy War by RF Kuang

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Opposite of Always by Justin A Reynolds

Dealing in Dreams by  Lilliam Rivera

What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson

The Girl King by Mimi Yu

bookish posts

TBR Stacks Check-in: June 2018

So I thought I should do a check-in post with my TBR challenge. ALAS, I kind of forgot about this and haven’t actually read any of the books yet, so it’s a bit of a dud in terms of an update. But I am putting several of them on hold as we speak and since my current reading plan is to go through my TBR shelf in order of when I checked the books out, I should get there eventually.

An Earthly Crown by Kate Elliott (on hold)

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson (on hold)

The Sleeping Life by Andrea K Höst

The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein (on hold)

Half-Resurrection Blues by DJ Older

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

Vicious by Victoria Schwab (on hold)

Blood Spirits by Sherwood Smith

book lists bookish posts

Diving into the TBR stacks

Are there some authors who perpetually hang out on your TBR list? Not because there’s anything wrong with their books, but just because there are so many. I have a few I’ve been meaning to get back to for *ahem* some time now and I need a little push to get me to actually do it. So here I am, committing to reading the following books by the following authors sometime this year.  We’ll see how this project unfolds!

An Earthly Crown by Kate Elliott

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson

The Sleeping Life by Andrea K Höst

The Lost Steersman by Rosemary Kirstein

Half-Resurrection Blues by DJ Older

The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi

Vicious by Victoria Schwab

Blood Spirits by Sherwood Smith