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The Outskirter's Secret

(The Steerswoman #2)

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,577 ratings  ·  158 reviews
Two shining lights hung above, motionless in the night sky as the constellations slowly passed behind them. The common folk knew them well, and used them to count the hours, mark the seasons.

But when the steerswoman Rowan discovered a number of broken blue jewels of clearly magical origin, her investigations led to a startling discovery: a Guidestar had fallen.

There were m
Kindle Edition, 342 pages
Published March 24th 2014 by Rosemary Kirstein (first published October 24th 1992)
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Average rating 4.34  · 
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 ·  1,577 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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Apr 01, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2022-reads
Rowan laughed. "How does a goat thank someone?"
"By not crapping on your foot."
I was not entirely won over by the first book in this series, The Steerswoman, but something about it made me want to go on even if I was a bit lukewarm about it. And then this book solidly won me over by tickling just the right spots in my brain, and it did end up going in the direction I did not anticipate as Rowan’s desire to find out more about a strange jewel that got wizards all concerned leads her to see how
Apr 28, 2022 rated it really liked it
It only took me two months to finish, which probably counts as some kind of personal record for category of Book-I-Actually-Liked-Even-Though. The 'even-though' was the kicker, clearly. Kirstein writes an interesting world, and there's a lot going on both in terms of world-building and in terms of character exploration. But in terms of plot? Not so much. The writing is lovely, however, and once I started reading, I enjoyed it, until interrupted by sleep or obligation (this is not Murderbot, wher ...more
Jan 07, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lets cut to the chase and quote Allison "why not the fifth star?" There was a bit of disinterest/boredom in the middle that I can't scrub from my rating, otherwise....

Amazing second book in an amazing series. Some of the things I rather enjoy about it are the fact that the two MCs are women who are smart, capable, different and imperfect. It isn't a plot point that they are women and they don't continually talk about being women and that makes me happy. I like the traveling adventure, I like the
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second volume in the series continues to delight. Rowan, our Steerswoman, is something like a druid-- she must answer all questions honestly to anyone, with the expectation that this will be reciprocated. Those that refuse to answer her questions become banned' and she no longer answers their queries. In the first volume, Rowan discovers that Slado, the 'king wizard' has basically put a death warrant on her due to her inquiries into strange jewels (which are something akin to solar power gen ...more
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like logic puzzles, lifetime students at heart, observers, fantasy lovers
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 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 charact
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kirstein expertly continues to expand her world and hint at parts of its history. She keeps me on my toes, but at the same time she writes characters that are deeply human and cultures feel very, very real.
I can't wait to see how this story continues.
Mar 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, this series, will change the way you use the term 'worldbuilding'.

My thoughts about this book and the others in the series can be found here
Allison Hurd
Dec 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great sequel, perhaps even stronger than the first book.

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)

Things to love:

-The world. Truly amazing in its scope and detail. I love that we get to see the Outskirts in detail--from the difference in temperatures to botany to goat droppings.

-The characters. Rowan is a lot easier for me to handle in this one because she's sort of constantly on her left foot, so to speak, and
Jul 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, fantasy
Another entertaining adventure with Rowan and Bel. Very different from Book 1, but still highly enjoyable. Another road trip, but this one is set in a different part of Kirstein's world. The flavour is a little like they are travelling with a nomadic Mongol tribe.

I love the original and interesting ideas Kirstein has come up with. I haven't read a book with a setting and characters quite like this one. The plot moved a little slowly at times, but the characters took you with them on their journ
I love how Kirstein takes her time telling this story, again shrugging off any traditional expectations about how the story in book two should follow from book one. If you are a fan of continuous world building that fits in naturally with the evolution of a story and characters, this series is for you.

Because of the detailed depiction of a distinctly non-Western society -- nomadic, well-organized, proud, and tough as nails due to the challenges of their environment -- I was reminded of another b
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
The one where Rowan and Bel explore the Outskirts and make shocking discoveries.

Wow! I really enjoyed the first book, but this is a level up.

The Outskirters are the ones that the villagers view as barbarians, and in some ways their culture is exactly what you'd predict, while in other ways it's entirely different. I particularly loved the role played by poetry. And I liked the introduction of the Face People -- the ones that the barbarians view as barbarians -- and the reasons why they do the
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book, the story begun in "The Steerswoman" continues. The Steerswoman Rowan and her friend, the Outskirter Bel, travel to find the source of mysterious jewels. At first, this was no more than a routine inquiry, but as deception and violence follow them, they begin to suspect there's something more to discover. Is there a plot by an evil wizard to disrupt weather patterns and take over the world? Is the way of life followed by the barbarians of the Outskirts threatened? What do the Guides ...more
May 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*This review contains spoilers for "The Steerswoman," the first book in this series*

The second book in the Steerswoman series picks up very quickly from where the first one leaves off. Will has gone off to become a wizard, and while I have no doubt he'll appear in later books to help foil the mysteriously evil Slado's plot, he didn't make an appearance in this book at all, which, though I have nothing against the boy, made it all the better.

We're again left with Bel and Rowan together as traveli
Nov 30, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read reviews of The Outskirter’s Secret, that criticize it for being too long, I didn't feel that way at all. I loved the details that we get on Bel's homeland tribes. I hated to hear that they gave up
(view spoiler)
Sep 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
I liked this one even better than the first. Something that occurred to me as I was reading the first one, that has only gotten more noticeable as I get to know this world, is how much these books and their heroine remind me of the Winnowing Flame trilogy (the one that starts with The Ninth Rain) by Jen Williams. These came first--the first Steerswoman book was published in '89, Ninth Rain in 2017--but I read the Williams books first. Though they're very different stories, I'm struck by some of ...more
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No joke though. I actually enjoyed this book more than the first. It follows through, treats the reader with respect, and continues to explore then world EXTREMELY thoughtfully. And “world” encompasses more than just the environment: the makeup of the protagonists continues to deepen in the most fascinating way.

I was a little concerned because the “villain” is so abstract, but the author continues to be effective. So good. I’m beginning to think on who to recommend this series to.
Jessica Mae Stover
I reviewed this series on the page for the first book: It's my intention to convince you to read this series. It is possible to start with this book (book two), if you wish. Book two was my favorite in the series, followed by book three. I'm looking forward to forthcoming volumes! ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So when I picked up this series, I saw that book 4 had been published in 2004, and concluded that the series was complete (that's good!). Then I learned that was not the case, but that Del Ray had lost interest and stopped publishing them (that's bad). Then I learned that Rosemary Kirstein had re-acquired the rights, had re-released them in e-book and trade paperback, and was planning to self-publish 5 and 6 (that's good!). Then I learned the frogurt is also cursed (that's bad). Anyway, Rosemary ...more
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Similar to book 1 this one slowly builds, laying on discoveries, information, characters and a richly realised and depicted life of the places and people encountered, leading to a building intensity that is gripping.

This upended my expectations of what it would actually be about in several ways and it is so much better than I imagined. I will have a hard time not jumping tight into part 3.

The ever growing and expanding mystery is as captivating as the growing world being revealed.

(view spoiler)
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The sequel to the superb The Steerswoman somehow manages to be at least good as the original despite the clever twist on science and fantasy no longer being a twist.

Much of the appeal for me is that the order of steerswomen this captures the joy and excitement of scientists, and scientists at their very best on a good day. They know things, but what is really important is learning, and learning requires embracing exactly those things they are ignorant of. They are impressively competent and deli
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Wow, the author created a rich society and filled it with complex characters in the opener, and here she does it again with both--sending Rowan and Bel into the Outskirts to check out the fallen Guide Star and having them fall in with several communities of Outskirters. The only quibble I can make is that, because she's such a dab hand at creating believable details (as well as the broader stuff) it seems odd that Rowan can slaughter experienced warriors in droves when she fights. Otherwise terr ...more
Rowan heads deep into the Outskirts in search of the fallen Guidestar. The series's fantasy-meets-science fiction premise doesn't grow tiresome, in large part because the major plot twist is unpredictable but logical--drawing the reader into the protagonist's limited PoV, while still allowing their wider knowledge to inform the worldbuilding. The strengths of the first book, the detailed, lived-in world and the compelling ways in which characters reason through the mysteries that surround them, ...more
Jeffrey Shrader
Dec 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great! The world seemed much larger and more richly drawn this time around. The book benefitted from the scaffolding laid down in the first installment and from a narrower focus just on the outskirters.

The story made it clear that my Grossman-Stiglitz reading of the first book is not the central conceit of the story, but I knew that was just my particular flight of fancy. The unveiling of more of the true thrust of the series was highly satisfying.

It is odd that for both this and the first boo
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff
This is one of those series where I finish each book in a sitting but then make myself wait between books so I'll appreciate them more. The characters are interesting, the plot is slowly showing itself, and I want to cheer on each discovery and it's interconnections. Very enjoyable read which I'm sure I'll still be slowly processing for awhile. ...more
Jan 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf, have-e-book
2022 I completed a reread in advance of an upcoming buddy-read with Carol.’s Chaos Oasis group, liberally highlighting and bookmarking points for discussion.
I just love these books and I was so happy to hear them mentioned by Dan Moren in a recent Incomparable podcast, and I’m delighted to have them be the focus of a buddy read here.
Oct 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
Oh man, I love this series.
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't been so consumed by a book in almost a decade. This series is incredible. ...more
Xan  Shadowflutter
The first volume was good, and this one is better. The deep dive into nomadic tribal life, customs, traditions, and daily life was fascinating. And the rest of the story is really good too. I should add that while there is action, the emphasis is on world building over action, and some may not like that. I thought it was great.
May 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the first book in this series, The Steerswoman because it was recommended by Renay.

This book follows on from book one, so I would highly recommend that you read the first book first. I mean, you could pick this up and follow along with no clue as to what has gone before, but why would you do such a thing? You’d miss out on all the backstory and you wouldn’t know how Bel and Rowan came to meet. Go read The Steerswoman first, things’ll work much better that way.

Determined to learn the truth
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 19-in-2019, fantasy, 2019, 9, sf, ebooks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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