Book Review: Steelflower by Lilith Saintcrow

Samhain
304 pp.

Steelflower (Steelflower Chronicles, Book 1)Steelflower is a sword and sorcery novel of the kind that reminds me of a certain “shared universe” series that came out in the early eighties. (Specifically, it reminds me of Thieves World by Robert Lynn Asprin.) It also has the flavor of a book that written based off of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. (The story begins in a tavern, for one thing. Because this is the most frequent way adventuring parties meet in table top gaming, you know.) Our Heroine is a young woman named Kaia. She is an outcast from her people because she is a woman who had been born without the magical powers inherent to her race.

Or at least, that is what she thinks. After picking a barbarian’s pocket, then more or less adopting him, she discovers that she is being pursued by a warrior of her people. This warrior is a young prince who believes that Kaia is his “twin,” the sorceress he is meant to fall in love with. Kaia disagrees with this strongly, but ends up adopting the warrior–his name is Darik–anyway. Then more of her people turn up who are looking for Darik, and they are very surprised to see Kaia, who had run away from home years before, and is woefully untrained in the powers of sorcery she does in fact possess.

This would be the point where my head explodes in sheer annoyance.   

The reason behind why Kaia believes she was cast out by her people is because she was so traumatized by the deaths of her parents that she completely shut down and was unable and unwilling to communicate, and had the magical power to enforce her isolation, apparently without realizing it. She bases her belief that she has no magic on a test taken when she was a small child, where it was not explained that the reason why she was not able to see her own aura of power is because only the teachers are usually able to see how much power a girl has.

She was so successful at hiding and isolating herself (only coming out to learn swordsmanship) that it wasn’t until she was in her late teens when her family finally found her hiding spot, and removed all of her belongings to put them where they belonged…in her room. Of course, her family forgot the part where they leave a note or otherwise inform her that, “Hi, your stuff has been moved to your bedroom. Please stop living in the cellar it hurts our feelings.”  

There are many ways that this could have been written or handled, but the writer went for the one that makes both Kaia and her entire family look stupid. Kaia at least has the excuse that she was a traumatized and nearly catatonic child who only“woke up” because she thought she had been rejected for not having magic. Kaia’s family has no excuse on the other hand, even if their culture hasn’t invented therapy or psychology yet.

This is a book that (despite my irritation with it) is an interesting fantasy with interesting (if occasionally clichéd) ideas. If you have a soft spot for the writer or the “true love/soulbonding” trope, you might like this book.

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2 Comments

Filed under drama, fantasy, Lilith Saintcrow, non-earth, Review: Book, romance

2 responses to “Book Review: Steelflower by Lilith Saintcrow

  1. That was my main problem with the book too. It was like Kaia's family was hit with the Stupid Stick off their branch, high in the Stupid Tree, and then smacked into every single Stupid Branch on the way to the Stupid Ground. (I am comparing it to Furies of Calderon, where the hero also is the Only One Without Magic ™… and it turns out that the reason for this is (spoiler space) ……………his mother accidentally-on-purpose stunted both his physical and magical growth because she was scared someone would find out he was the son of the assassinated Crown Prince in a culture where the nobility has bred for magical gifts. Which prevents him from developing his own magical gifts until extraordinarily late. (He also has a soulbond, for that matter, when he runs into a girl from a race whose magic comes from bonding to animals… and she accidentally attaches to him, which no one knew her people could do… and it pisses her the hell off, since she wanted a pony… until she both falls for him and realizes this means instead of speed/stamina/strength, she gets to share his magical abilities.)……………Plus, Tavi spends half the series being the clever one who can succeed through wits and guile and the help of his friends, even with what comes across in his society as a severe disability.

  2. I honestly think this might have been one of her first books, which almost excuses the bad, except no, it doesn't. I can almost see where the writer was trying to make Kaia seem so terribly powerful that even as a child, no one could get through to her but it falls flat…and it still makes Kaia's family look like a bunch of morons.Another thing is the writer doesn't seem to have a clear idea of what constitutes "sharp tongued" because very little of what Kaia says fits my definition of same. Bratty and bizarrely juvenile considering she's supposed to be an experienced adult yes, but not sharp tongued.I have heard that about Calderon, which is why I haven't read it. (It would be interesting to make a list of instances where border line or overt abuse was upheld as the right, good thing to do in various fantasy novels…)

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