The Lost Steersman (Steerswoman Series #3)
by Rosemary Kirstein
How do you find a person you have never seen, or have never heard described? And what if the consequences of not finding him are too terrible to imagine?
The steerswoman Rowan has learned that Slado, a mysterious wizard, has secretly been working spells of incredible power. Both the Inner Lands and the Outkskirts are now threatened by his magic—and before the destruction becomes too great to reverse, Rowan must find Slado so that he can be stopped. But how does one stop the most powerful man in the world? [goodreads]
This is the weirdest blurb I’ve read, simply because it tells nothing about the events and the key issues of the book. Yes, Rowan is preoccupied with finding the wizard Slado. But she’s made it back to the furthest reaches of the Inner lands, to find that the Library, a copy of all the knowledge of the Steerswomen, has been sadly neglected. She takes it on herself to sort things out a little, since she needs to search through the lore within to get hints on where she might find Slado (and other mysteries she’s carrying with her).
The first part of the story is interesting, exciting, adventurous, and we discover more about both the Steerswomen and the lands they inhabit. But the arrival of some weird monsters, who can only have come from the Outlands, surely, steers Rowan’s investigations in another direction. Then the Lost Steersman Janus turns up. This generates a cat and mouse game of who answers/asks the questions, since a Steerswoman has to answer a question truthfully, and the Guild booted Janus out for not answering questions about what he’s been up to. It makes for occasionally funny, but more often vexing, reading.
Then Janus disappears, leaving enough clues to lead Rowan on a perilous journey. Once again, the author’s brilliant handling of scene and setting comes into play. This time into a land dominated by the Outskirter species who had attacked their village earlier. Her alien-building and psychology of alien encounters is excellent.
Just when the plot should get exciting, it slows right down. The last third of the book is tedious, if a reflection of the difficulties Rowan is going through. I kept wondering when it was going to end, and indeed hoping the choice of the name Janus was going to reveal a double secret…. but…
I hope the final book in the series returns to the excellence of the first two.