And what a great inherent conflict between the steerswomen and the wizards, who keep their magic secret and thus are all under ban. When Rowan, the main character, stumbles upon an interesting anomaly that leads her too close to wizards' secrets, they try to kill her. As if that would stop a steerswoman from trying to find things out!
Here's what I had to say on Goodreads about the first book:
An utterly compelling intellectual novel. For me, that's an oxymoron; I'm usually all about the action and adventure. There's action in this one—a bit of swordfighting and things getting blown up, some spying and escaping from castles—but the drama and excitement is all in the main character's thought processes. I love the way Rowan thinks, and I love watching her figure things out! The whole concept of a Steerswoman is just brilliant and lovely and gets me right in the heart. Science, people: this is what science is!
Then there's the delicious dramatic irony when part-way through the reader figures out what's really going on (or, at least, we start to figure it out), but Rowan simply can't—she doesn't have the context required. So there's the plot arc of Rowan doing what she has to do to find out crucial information—information she's interpreting in a certain, dramatically interesting way because it involves a clear threat to her and her way of life—, combined with the fascinating mystery of what's actually going on in the world—which is probably still threatening, but in an entirely different way—and we don't have quite have enough clues to put it all together yet.
I also reviewed The Outskirter's Secret, The Lost Steersman, and The Language of Power on Goodreads, if you're interested. I binge-read all four books in less than a week: it's terrible for my personal productivity, but books like this are what I live for!
Rosemary Kirstein deserves to be much better known than she is; I'm perfectly serious when I say she could be the next Ursula K. LeGuin.
Her books are not expensive on Kindle—and I have an ulterior motive in convincing you to buy them: she's still working on Books 5 and 6, and we need to make sure she has food and rent money so she can focus on writing! (I really, really want books 5 and 6!)
I'm making lamb tagine for dinner tonight, and it's a perfect food metaphor: rich, meaty, spicy, complex, interesting enough to be memorable but comforting enough to eat often.