I'm not even sure where to begin expessing how amazing I find this series and this book in particular - my favorite of the series. This world has two...moreI'm not even sure where to begin expessing how amazing I find this series and this book in particular - my favorite of the series. This world has two main cultural and geographic divings. The Inner Lands folks live in the center of the know world, and the setting is somewhat standard fantasy. In the Outskirts live nomadic communities who live a simpler life in a harsher environment.
The Steerswomen (or occaisonally steersmen) are a key group in this series; a steerswoman Rowan is the main character. They are lifelong students who travel the world to observe and study it. If asked a question, steerswomen must tell the truth, and anyone to whom they ask a question must do the same or be put under the steerswoman ban. Under ban, no steerswoman will answer even the simplest of questions, which can be a serious consequence in a society where the steerswomen are the gatherers and spreaders of knowledge. In fact, their role in society is so highly valued that it is custom to give them food and shelter for free. I have a soft spot for Rowan because I identify with her thirst for knowledge, her analytical mind, her textbook-like manner of explanation when a question is asked, and her sometimes stilted social skills.
In this book, we travel to the Outskirts and are able to learn about the culture and ecology of these people. Any able-bodied person in a warrior, protecting the tribe from potential attack from other tibes. In injury, old age, or mental inability, outskirters become mertutials, the people who cook, herd goats, or otherwise care for the tribe. Both warriors and mertutials are equally respected. Some evenings are filled with songs, poetry, and tales from a people of surprising intellectual sophistication for having been stereotyped as barbarians. I love outskirter culture, and I particularly love Bel, main character number two, best friend to Rowan, who is both fierce warrior and singer/poet. I would love to be more like her but sadly end up more like her literal, bookish counterpart.
The best thing about this series is following Rowan's investigation. Though this is a fantasy setting, it is clear from early on that there is some very sophisticated technology on this world that the common folk are not allowed to understand. Anything high-tech is labeled as magic, a catch-all cagegory for anything whose causes are not understood. Rowan, of course, will not rest until she does understand, and it is amazing to watch her mind wrap around concepts that are commonplace to us but far beyond anything she's ever dealt with. I also enjoy learning in this book about the unique ecological systems of the outskirts, which end up being an important piece of the puzzle. I don't think you necessarily have to love fantasy to get into this series because unlike most fantasy it plays to a broader type of audience. It is these unusual qualties that make the book stand out for me and that push it into my top 10 category.
The one drawback: most charcters are straight, which would be fine if I weren't already drowning in straight fantasy and in a world with a hetereosexual and gender normal paradigm. But again, as with Flewelling's books, there is not excessive differentiation between women and men main characters, which is a redeaming quality.(less)
I have to say that I do miss the Outskirts in this book, but in Inner Lands town of Alemeth takes on it's own unique personality with many amusing mom...moreI have to say that I do miss the Outskirts in this book, but in Inner Lands town of Alemeth takes on it's own unique personality with many amusing moments characteristic of a small gossipy community. I also miss Bel, but Alemeth comes through again with a local young man called Steffie, a new and endearing character. Steffie's though process and articulation can be slow and awkward, but his mind is steady and persistent to compensate. I have a particular fondness for him because my thought process can sometimes match his. It's nice to see a character where slowness and intelligence can go together. All around, the characters and story are lovely, two aspects of Kirstein's writing that I've come very much to appreciate. This book continues Rowan's investigation at the Archives in Alemeth as Rowan conducts research and makes discoveries that add more pieces to an increasingly large puzzle. The book ends with an unexpected and truly amazing cultural study, again showing that this is not your standard fantasy series. Rowan's observations are amazing, as is Kristein's construction of a new culture.(less)
It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did I really enjoyed it. This is a true story of a woman who travels around the world, mos...moreIt took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did I really enjoyed it. This is a true story of a woman who travels around the world, mostly sailing, but at one point biking across Australia. As she travels, she begins to make a personal journey through painful supressed memories. But it's not depressing, and you feel Neva's sense of empowerment start to blossom. I also like to read about sailing and traveling in different countries, so this was another draw for me.(less)
Yes, I love this book, but I just have to say: could she choose a cheasier title? While the cover art and title indicate that you might be in for stan...moreYes, I love this book, but I just have to say: could she choose a cheasier title? While the cover art and title indicate that you might be in for standard fantasy cheese whiz, if you can get past the embarassment of carrying this book around, it's actually quite a good read. You might have to like fantasy adventure to be able to get into this, but the characters and relationships are great and the story's pretty gripping. Plus every time you blink, there's another queer character - such a nice change from standard fantasy with pretty standard sexuality and archaic gender roles. It may be true to the historic period, but for the love of pete, it's fiction and fantasy - we can create whatever kind of society we want in our minds - and expand our horizons of how things could be.(less)
Flewelling should stop at two. She develops excellent stories over her first two books, and the third one becomes long, drawn out, and considerably le...moreFlewelling should stop at two. She develops excellent stories over her first two books, and the third one becomes long, drawn out, and considerably less interesting. That being said, since I'm in love with the two main characters and their relationship, I can't help enjoying any book written about them. This one takes us into a somewhat stereotypical fantasy fairy land where the people are tall, fair, and long-lived. Despite that, we learn some interesting things about Aurenfaie culture, and Alec and Seregil have steamy gay sex here and there (which is never described in detail - you have to use your imagination).(less)
This is the true story of the author's solo sailing trip around the world. Robin Lee Graham, featured several times in National Geographic, set out to...moreThis is the true story of the author's solo sailing trip around the world. Robin Lee Graham, featured several times in National Geographic, set out to sail the world when he was 16 and finally returned home when he was 21. This book is his personal narrative of his travels - from being bored and lonely at sea to exploring gorgeous tropical islands to meeting his love Patty. It's a great book if you like to travel through literature.(less)
You don't have to be a sci-fi fan to love this book. It's a smoothe read and a page turner. It's easy to identify with main character Ender, which is...moreYou don't have to be a sci-fi fan to love this book. It's a smoothe read and a page turner. It's easy to identify with main character Ender, which is what makes this book accessible to anyone.(less)
I'm a bonobo in a predominantly chimpanzee society, and that's why I really love this book. But beyond that...
This book is a great introduction to bon...moreI'm a bonobo in a predominantly chimpanzee society, and that's why I really love this book. But beyond that...
This book is a great introduction to bonobo culture. Unlike their patriarchial, agressive cousins the chimpanzees, bonobos are peaceful, sexual society in which females hold a substantial amount of power. They have sex for pleasure and to settle conflicts and make friends. Same-sex pairings are as common as both sexes. Gender roles are much less extreme than in chimpanzee culture. Both females and males hunt, and although females do hold the power, the society is fairly egaltarian. Given that we share so much genetic material with these amazing creatures - as much as we share with chimpanzees - we have so much to learn from them. Not only do they disabuse us of the notion that patriarchy is the "proper order of things," but they also illustrate a very unique social structure. Understanding how such a different power and cultural structure comes about would be very informative to humans who frequently can't see past the end of their own collective nose. Also, LOVELY graphics.(less)
Yipes, this book was a hard read. The pre-Stonewall era was extremely harsh for queerfolk; between the rapes, beatings, and general hatred from law en...moreYipes, this book was a hard read. The pre-Stonewall era was extremely harsh for queerfolk; between the rapes, beatings, and general hatred from law enforcement and the general public alike, I frankly don't know how people survived. (I know it still happens today, but there was SO LITTLE safe space in those days). This is the personal narrative of Leslie Feinberg, categorized as fiction, but as I understand it fairly true to life. I could only award this book two stars because of the sheer depressingness of a big chunk of the book. But, yes, I do recommend it because it paints a very true picture of queer life in that era.(less)
I couldn't put this book down. The author of the book and main character, Dawn Prince-Hughes, describes her experience of growing up autistic, which i...moreI couldn't put this book down. The author of the book and main character, Dawn Prince-Hughes, describes her experience of growing up autistic, which is an amazing mind-opener for those who have never experienced it. It is through observing gorillas at a zoo that she finally begins to understand human connection. This is a beautiful story about Prince-Hughes's life, and it has allowed me to understand autism more and accept it as simply a different way of being in the world.(less)
This is an amazing collection of gay male authors telling their coming out stories or their first experiences of sexuality. There is the occaisonal du...moreThis is an amazing collection of gay male authors telling their coming out stories or their first experiences of sexuality. There is the occaisonal dull story, but on the whole this is an excellent group of writers. Because these are short stories you have the convenience of reading small snipets whenever you like and skipping the stories you dislike. My two favorite are "Beyond Words", where you experience the joy of young gay love and first sexuality, and "Fishing Practice", in which a young man comes out to parents who don't understand but are willing to practice until they get it right.(less)