Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

Published by Del Rey Books (

Rosemary Kirstein continues to reveal a vaguely familiar world of magic, in The Language of Power. Rowan, the Steerswoman heroine from the earlier installments in this saga, continues on her quest to find the evil wizard Slado. Spurring Rowan on her quest to find Slado was the Guidestar he brought down from the Heavans and his abuse of the über-spell “Routine Bioform Clearance,” a spell, as its name infers, destroys life in a concentrated area. This novel picks up a short amount of time after the tumultuous events of the previous novel, The Lost Steersman. While Language of Power does not exactly pick up the specific events from the previous novel, it is the continuation of the larger story Kirstein is so skillfully weaving.

Rowan and her friend Bel, arrive in the town of Donner, in an attempt to determine Slado’s connection to the town. Within this mystery, are the puzzling circumstances surrounding the disappearance of a steerswoman, the change of heart of a once feared wizard into a beloved, grandfatherly figure and the wizard’s subsequent disappearance. The enjoyable qualities of the previous volume are again, on display here. An admirable, believable protagonist in Rowan; a world of magic, mathematics and/or science; unfolding in deceptively familiar layers in front of reader’s eyes. Rowan’s perseverance in trying to understand her world and her corresponding hunt for Slado compel the narrative of this book quite well. While the action of this novel is not very high, Kirstein’s ability to keep the reader engaged throughout is very effective. Conversations between Rowan and her friend Will are quite engaging, as they surprise each other frequently in their quest to determine the nature of Donner’s current wizard, Jannik.

As she delves into the mystery surrounding Donner’s current wizard, Jannik, Rowan begins to learn more about the town of Donner, its people as well as more about the Wizards, as the most powerful and enigmatic group of people in the world. In The Language of Power, Kirstein reveals the magical dragons hinted at in The Lost Steersman, immediately bringing to mind Michael Swanwick’s wonderful novel The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. It is not easy to determine the true roots of Kirstein’s dragons, but thoughtfully considering how these dragons came to be in the world is one instance of Kirstein leaving an Easter egg for the reader to try and find.

While this novel read and flowed very well, I felt, upon reflection not much happened, which is my only real gripe. The conversations and discoveries the characters made drove the flow of the story. As this novel is the fourth part of a 6-7 book, saga this feeling of still wanting more out of the story is not too much of a gripe.

On the whole, this is a good novel, but only a snapshot of the greater story Kirstein plans on telling. Time will tell if the greater story works well, but this particular “episode” does reveal further layers in Rowan’s world and provides further hints of how each of the societies came to be. A small sense of closure is intimated, but the full closure of Rowan’s story looks to be more time in coming. While a notch below the quality Kirstein gave readers in The Lost Steersman, The Language of Power, is still an absorbing read worthy of recommendation.

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