The Outskirter's Secret Mass Market Paperback – 1 Dec 1992
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The Outskirts are known to be hazardous and Rowen is accompanied by Bel, who was born there – which is just as well. The area is full of life-ending traps for the unwary and becomes almost another character, given the detail of this imaginary lethal landscape Kirstein portrays, as Rowan and Bel try to track down where they think the fallen Guidestar may have fallen. We get a ringside seat as the intrepid duo tangle with the insects, fight off demons and goblins and attempt to navigate their way through these hostile grasslands. They also encounter the nomadic tribes that cris-cross the vast terrain and end up travelling with them, sharing their triumphs and their catastrophes as they make their way towards the crash site of the Guidestar.
I’m not in the business of providing spoilers, so I won’t be mentioning more about the story arc – but I haven’t stopped thinking about this one since I completed it. The progression and consequences of what happens left me with my jaw dragging on the ground. I’d already worked out that one of the main supporting characters wasn’t all he seemed – but the climactic conclusion to this leg of Rowan’s travels was so coolly apt, I am raring to get hold of the next book in this superb series.
While this one could easily be read as a standalone, I do recommend you go back and get hold of The Steerswoman – this series is simply too good to skimp. As for me – I’ve got some books I need to read first, but as soon as I’m able, I’m going to revisit this world with The Lost Steersman.
The overall arc of the series is amazing, the review is spoiler free but the concept is incredible and I can't wait to see the eventual reveal, so the book works on two levels; Rowan's interactions with the Outskirter tribes and secondly, her search to find out how and why a Guidestar has fallen.
My one gripe with the book was that too much time was spent with the tribes, as I said I liked it overall but after a while diminishing returns set in and the events became a little repetitive. The book could have lost 10% of this and no plot or substance would have been lost.
However, this is my only criticism and the book is highly recommended. 9/10.
Life amongst the Outskirter tribes is exciting and we meet so many interesting characters that the author forms so completely that you feel you know them. There is so much depth to the world Kirstein creates, every detail is covered and captured by Rowan's questing mind. From the many different types of people, to the detailed flora and fauna, and even the weather which plays such a key part in this book.
As usual, you are left wanting, needing, to know more at the end of this book. I NEED to know the answers to so many questions! Who really are the wizards? What really are the Guidestars? What is a link? Why did Routine Bioform Clearance stop? Who is Slado? Who were the founding mothers of the Outskirter tribes and were they related to Rowan's people? And so many more!