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The Outskirter's Secret

(The Steerswoman #2)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,279 ratings  ·  118 reviews
WHEN A GUIDESTAR FALLS 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: the Guidestars. But when the steerswoman Rowan discovered a number of broken blue jewels of clearly magical origin, her investigations led to a startling discov ...more
Paperback, 390 pages
Published December 5th 2017 by Rosemary Kirstein (first published October 24th 1992)
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  1,279 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
May 06, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is hard to review. I continue to be interested in the overall mystery of what is going on with the [technological thing] in the seemingly (at first glance) standard fantasy world. There was a bit too much traveling around with a nomadic tribe in the hostile prairies for my liking, so while I wasn't crazy about the immediate setting I still enjoyed the overall plot development. I liked the two main characters and Fletcher. I can't say that any of the other outskirters (barbarians) were reall ...more
Jane (yesmissjane)
Wow. I so loved this volume!

The world of the outskirts which Bel, Rowan and friends are exploring is so vivid. The culture of the people living there so beautifully evoked. And then the 'recognition narrative' at the two thirds mark really sent me for a spin... talk about a plot twist!!! I absolutely did not see this coming, but where the story took us after this was even more exciting! Can't wait for more.

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.
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.
Jun 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, 19-in-2019, fantasy, sf, 2019, 9
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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. Knowing the 'wizards' are after her for her inquiries into strange jewels (which are something akin to solar power generators), she sets off with her outskirter friend Bel to find the site of a crashed satellite far in the outskirter region.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that wizards
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
Hugh Mullan
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really enjoyable read and I will definitely be picking up book 3. This book has most of the positive traits found in book 1: excellent dialogue, wonderful descriptions of plant, animal and insect life, completely believable characters, mystery and a good balance between action and world building. The characters interactions and reactions are so realistic; it's a pleasure to see that. Also, the book had a very interesting setting: a native american setting which worked very well.
Kari Chapman
The Outskirter's Secret starts a little ways after the end of the first book. Rowan and Del have headed into the Outskirts to further investigate the fallen Guidestar. However, the book that followed was far more travelog than anything else. We get detailed descriptions of the food, the people and the landscape, but by the time I stopped around halfway through there was no actual progress on the Guidestar besides working on a traveling toward it. Quite frankly, I got bored and stopped reading. T ...more
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I liked the first novel in this series, which I read many, many years ago. Not sure I can recall why now. I found it difficult to concentrate on this book; my mind tended to wander easily when I read (which is pretty rare for me). A pretty typical fantasy novel. A strong female protagonist, and some feminist-leaning thematic overtones. Nothing really special about this book to set it aside from the shelves of similar fantasy novels. No reason to ever read the other books in this series.
Anna Livingston
As always, I'm wishing Goodreads let us do half-stars, because this one is better than three, but not quite good enough for four. There's some interesting societal worldbuilding, and a killer (literally) final 50 pages, but I thought the book meandered far too much. At the same time, I'm really in love with Rowan and Bel, and am intrigued enough by the ongoing mystery that I'll be moving on to the next book in the series soon.
Rosario (
I picked up the first in the Steerswoman series after reading a review in (this is a site I don't see mentioned much at all, probably since it's pretty low-key, but I've been following it for many years it's led me to quite a lot of wonderful books, mostly in the fantasy/sci-fi and non-fiction genres). I had never heard of Rosemary Kirstein and never heard of this series before reading the review. Having finished all 4 available books now, I can tell you they should be much better know ...more
J.L. Dobias
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shelf-001
The Outskirter's Secret (Steerswoman Series book 2)by Rosemary Kirstein

This is the second of the epic Steerswoman series. Though the novel is large it's not as large as some epic fantasy, but the scope of the world building is quite epic. A dystopic world of magic and technology twined together by forgotten knowledge and a strange new world that seems to have emerged after a disaster that took away the moon. This, the second in the series of Steerswoman takes the reader into the Outskirts where
S.J. Higbee
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book – Kirstein’s adventurous, intelligent protagonist pings off the page. Steerswomen are constantly on the road, mapping and enquiring about anything that takes their interest – they wear a livery that lets everyone know who they are and the deal is they are bound to honestly answer any question that is put to them. However, if someone refuses to answer one of their questions, they are then entitled to ignore any of their subsequent questions. Rowan has become intrigued by rare blu ...more
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, scifi
I admit I kind of read these in a series binge and have gotten some elements of different books confused in my mind.

In this book, Rowan and Bel are starting off in their journey through the Outskirts to find the fallen Guidestar.

(view spoiler)
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you combined Neal Stephenson's Anathem with Tamora Pierce's Alanna books, maybe?

I liked this more than the first book, I think mostly because of how brilliant it deals with telling the ecological story. Reading the first book and the start of the second my sense was that this world is very small, and then that the ecology of the Outskirts was unrealistically narrow (basically only two or three species interacting, etc), and the feeling of frustrating that the worldbuilding is too simplistic
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ebook
This was excellent. I really enjoy the world built for this story - the whole idea of Steerswomen appeals to me. I found the overarching theme to be predictable, in the sense that when Rowan came to her big realizations at the very end, I had already figured out what's going on. But I think you're supposed to, because so much of the wizard magic is obviously technology. At the same time, there were lots of little details I didn't expect, and so the story was still enjoyable. I wanted to find out ...more
David Phipps
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, fantasy
This second book in the series has Rowan and Bel going to the Outskirts to investigate something. This is a slower paced book with more of a focus on learning a new culture as Rowan adapts to Outskirter ways. Outskirters are nomadic warrior groups that fight for survival on a strange prairie-like landscape. Learning about the Outskirters was interesting but the overall plot was rather weak and did not reach a satisfying conclusion for me. This is just another chapter in a larger story.
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