frayadjacent: Buffy with her arms crossed from "Checkpoint", text says, "Power: I have it" (BtVS: Power)
[personal profile] frayadjacent
I'm a slow and infrequent reader-of-books, and even then I often forget to post about what I'm reading.  So, it's not Wednesday, even in Australia, but I figure I better post this while it's on my mind.

What I just finished

…if by "just", one means "a week and a half ago".  I read Gullstruck Island by Frances Hardinge, and it was one of my favourite books in some time.  The main protagonist is a young indigenous person on a colonised island, and the book deals with the dynamics of colonisation really well, I thought.  And it also focuses on people who don't get noticed, and what they might do with that social invisibility, the ways they can exercise power through it, the ways they may come to resent it.  It's beautifully written and I absolutely adored the main character, a clever, adaptable girl whose skills are really well established by her back story.  And it has an ensemble of characters I came to care about deeply, it doesn't treat characters like canon fodder, and it establishes a fascinating setting, both physically and socially. It did go to that The Cycle of Violence Ends Here place in a way that bugs me, but that's my only complaint. 

Well, that and the fact that I can't vid it.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book.

What I'm reading now

The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein.  I'm less than halfway through now. 

I was almost immediately struck by how rare it is in fiction (here I'm including television and movies) to have a female character who is broadly admired and respected for something other than her looks.  There are lots of competent women and girls in stories, but they almost always have to prove themselves, far above and beyond what an otherwise equivalent male character would have to do.  It's so refreshing to have that not be the case in this story, especially for Rowan (the protagonist), but also in general.  While their society clearly has strong class divisions and is in many ways modelled after medieval Europe, it's refreshingly light on the patriarchy.

 I am totally shipping Rowan/Bel.  It's funny, my shipping tendencies are so weak, but apparently I have a button for women with different but complementary abilities and world-views, who respect and surprise and have a general fondness for each other, travelling together.  *heart melts*

I realised a bit of the way through why the Steerswomen are so appealing to me: they're basically an expression of the fantasy of intellectuals who freely share knowledge and, as such, largely live outside the market economy that controls much of the rest of their society. 

Plus they're almost all women. 

Relatedly, I love how they quite readily admit when they're wrong, or when they don't know something for certain.  Not that everyone is walking on eggshells about what they know -- they have vigorous debates and aren't afraid to argue strongly when they are certain, but there doesn't seem to be the kind of egoism that plagues so much of contemporary academia and science, and can make for straight up bad science.  Admitting when you don't know something is a fundamental tenet of intellectual honesty, and I love what an important feature it is to the Steerswomen's culture.

What next/etc

I'm planning to read the rest of the Steerswoman series, but I'm actually a bit confused about what's what.  On Amazon Kindle it looks like the next book is The Lost Steersman (oh I just realised who that's probably about!) and the one after is The Outskirter's Secret?

Date: 2014-04-14 03:03 am (UTC)

chaila: Elizabeth Bennet reading a book, from the 2005 movie. (austen - lizzie/books)
From: [personal profile] chaila
Yay Steerswomen! I agree with all of this. I love how respected the institution itself is, and that this organization known for intellectual thought & knowledge is almost all women. I don't really ship them myself but I looooooove Rowan and Bel's friendship. And there are so many women! And if you pay attention throughout the series, Kirstein makes all professions gender-neutral: background sailors & warriors are as likely to be women as men. It's so great!

Re: order, it's probably confusing because of reissues. The order is The Steerswoman, The Outskirter's Secret, The Lost Steersman, The Language of Power. But at one point the first two were reissued together as one volume called The Steerwoman's Road, which is maybe why The Lost Steersman sometimes looks like book two? But if you're reading The Steerswoman ebook, then the next book is The Outskirter's Secret.

Yay!
Date: 2014-04-14 04:06 am (UTC)

lilacsigil: 12 Apostles rocks, text "Rock On" (12 Apostles)
From: [personal profile] lilacsigil
I've just started Steerswoman and I'm loving it so far! Bel's culture and her poetry/songs are fascinating too, but I must admit Rowan's culture deeply appeals to me for all the reasons you list about.
Date: 2014-04-14 09:43 pm (UTC)

lizbee: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lizbee
I've been chasing The Steerswoman for a few years, and I was SO excited to find it for cheap on the Kindles! And I love it for all the reasons you do -- only I finished it on Sunday night, and I can't afford the next ones until Thursday.
Date: 2014-04-15 09:08 am (UTC)

lizbee: (DW: Martha (comic))
From: [personal profile] lizbee
No, that's okay - it inspired me to finally start an Australian fantasy novel I got for free, and that's ALSO good, although on the rapey and torturey side.
Date: 2014-04-15 11:28 am (UTC)

goodbyebird: Buffy Summers looks down a road outside of Sunnydale. (Buffy the road goes ever on)
From: [personal profile] goodbyebird
I'm currently reading The a Outskirter's Secret. Really enjoying the series, for all the reasons you mentioned above. [personal profile] chaila had been recommending them quite strongly, so I knew I was in for something excellent.

And your book rec sounds great as well, throwing it on my list :D
Date: 2014-04-15 08:17 pm (UTC)

luzula: a Luzula pilosa, or hairy wood-rush (Default)
From: [personal profile] luzula
I love the Steerswomen books! Both for great female characters and also for the slow reveal of the worldbuilding. I've read the first three books, and IMO they just get better and better the further you read. I could hardly put down the third one! I'm saving up the fourth one for a while before I read it. : )

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