The spellings sister-kin and sisterkin are both used in the books.

 "If I were to tell the Highlord what those knots say…" Rawneth began defiantly.
 "Would you indeed, and betray the very heart of the Women's World? What Adiraina writes in the love-knots of this old letter is meant for me alone."
 "If I told…"
 "You would be excluded forever from the solace of sisterkin-ship—if, indeed, anyone should ever want you."

Rawneth and Kinzi, To Ride a Rathorn,
"Chapter XXII: Casting the Stones", V

Sister-kinship (also spelled sisterkin-ship) is a lasting bond between Kencyr Highborn women of different houses.[1]


The term "sisterkin" seems to be used in three main ways, with rather different meanings, as seen here:

  1. to refer to all the Highborn women who are initiated into the rings of secrecy, the "community of sister-kinship"
    • By then, of course, many of them would belong to the community of sister-kinship which would be their only true "home" as adults.[2]
  2. very close relationships between pairs of women
    • "Adiraina and I were sisterkin."[3]
  3. the relationship between a woman and her partner's family
    • "[Tieri] was sister-kin to me, the daughter of Telarien, the granddaughter of my dear, dead Kinzi."[4]

The second usage is by far the most common.


These relationships are forged during young Highborn womens' training within the Women's Halls in Gothregor.

A girl's mother's name appears to be necessary to initiate her into sister-kinship;[5] presumably the general form is meant here. There is no explanation as to why, but the Matriarchs use this as a reason to demand the name of Jame's mother.

A sister-kin relationship appears to be arranged by the Matriarchs rather than occurring spontaneously; Adiraina speaks of "hoping for a glimpse of her new sister-friend."[6]. Before the final vows of sister-kinship, such couples appear to call each other "sister-friend" rather than "sister-kin".

There is some element involving vows and gifts on Spring's Eve.[7][8]


While due to its intensely secretive nature, it can be hard to pin down sister-kinship as one exact definition, they are by and large lovers. Adiraina refers to Kinzi, her sister-kin, as "her lover".[9] Sister-kin may sleep in the same bed when they are in Gothregor;[10].

It's also worth acknowledging that all sister-kinships are not necessarily identical. It is completely possible that the nature of sister-kinships vary as their members do.

The duties of Highborn women mean that the sister-kin relationship is generally a long-distance one, continued through coded messages in the knot-stitch code in the token scarves they regularly exchange to the bemusement of Highborn men.

Known sister-kinshipsEdit


  1. To Ride a Rathorn, "Glossary" — "sometimes Highborn women of different houses form lasting bonds with each other, about which their lords know nothing."
  2. Seeker's Mask, "Part I", I
  3. Bound in Blood, "Chapter II: A Dance in the Dark", I
  4. Seeker's Mask, "Part I", II
  5. Seeker's Mask, "Part I", II — " 'Without the mother's name, we wouldn't know how to bring the daughter into sister-kinship even if we wanted to.' "
  6. Seeker's Mask, "Part I", II — "an evening a lifetime ago, the child that she had been leaning on this windowsill, looking eastward over the jagged rooftops of the Women's Halls to the lights that sparkled in the Knorth family quarters, hoping for a glimpse of her new sister-friend."
  7. Seeker's Mask, "Part I", I — "Even on Spring's Eve, they had to dig into snow banks for the crocus with which to make their vows,"
  8. Seeker's Mask, "Part I", II — "Adiraina touched the worn shawl draped across her shoulders. It had arrived on Spring's Eve almost a century ago, after a winter's enforced silence: Kinzi's vow gift, the stitched record of her winter days."
  9. Seeker's Mask, "Part I", III — "The blaze of Kinzi's helpless rage like a fireball in her lover's mind, suddenly extinguished."
  10. 10.0 10.1 Seeker's Mask, "Part I", I — "At night, she had lain awake in the arms of her sister-friend, hearing the stones groan around them and the distant boom of ironwood trees shattering in the cold. […] Their young teacher had also felt that need, despite the warm arms of her Edirr sister. For her, the snow, the cold, and the wind of the past winter had been nothing compared to its strangeness."
  11. Blood and Ivory: A Tapestry, "Hearts of Woven Shadow" — " 'Let me not see, […] Let me not see. Oh, Jamethiel! […] Oh, Dream-weaver! Why did you do it? […] "Then went my lord Gerridon to his sister and consort, Jamethiel Dream-Weaver, and said, 'Dance out the souls of the faithful, that darkness may enter in. And she danced…" Oh, sister-kin, let me not see! But I have seen. […] My soul and honor I ransomed with my eyes. I have seen, I have seen, but oh, kinsman, let me not fall!' "

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