His hand shook, and the mark he made with the bit of charcoal wavered as he drew it: a small, lopsided cross, one arm trailing off unevenly.
–Rosemary Kirstein - The Outskirter's Secret - c. 1992, 2014
This book follows on from book one, so I would highly recommend that you read the first book first. I mean, you could pick this up and follow along with no clue as to what has gone before, but why would you do such a thing? You’d miss out on all the backstory and you wouldn’t know how Bel and Rowan came to meet. Go read The Steerswoman first, things’ll work much better that way.
Determined to learn the truth about the Guidestars–two points of light that hang motionless in the sky–Rowan sets out into the Outskirts, where barbarian tribes and the land itself could destroy her. (blurb from Goodreads)
I will admit that it took me a while to get my head into this book. It seemed like Bel and Rowan were just wandering, wandering, wandering. But that could’ve been because I was reading in 5 minute bursts, and infrequently. So it probably didn’t take up too much time in the book, but in my head it seemed to go on forever.
I didn’t mind it too much, because I like both Bel and Rowan, I like the way they approach the world. They have similarities, but in many respects they are very different. Of course they come from different backgrounds and cultures so they should be different. So while I was enjoying spending time with them I was also wondering when exactly the story was going to kick off properly.
But kick off it did, and soon enough I was totally engrossed. I didn’t even mind my insomnia on a few nights as I took the opportunity to read a few chapters while waiting for sleep. And I’ll admit, I read more than I had intended, so that’s a sign of a good book.
The main plot revolves around the quest to discover where the fallen Guidestar is, and what it is, but also to discover is it part of a wizard’s plot. And if so, why?
But in the course of that quest we get to spend a lot of time among the Outskirters, the “barbarians” of the blurb above. And they have a really interesting culture and outlook on life. They are constantly on the move, the land cannot support them if they stay in one place. And the land they travel through is actively hostile against them, plus they often come into conflict with other tribes. So they live a lot of their life under threat. A fact which makes some of their laws and practices seem a bit harsh, but they have to deal with the realities of their land.
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend the series for anyone who enjoys science fiction/fantasy.