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Told in the timeless style of Anne McCaffrey, The Rowan is the first installment in a wonderful trilogy. This is sci-fi at its best: a contemporary love story as well as an engrossing view of our world in the future.

The kinetically gifted, trained in mind/machine gestalt, are the most valued citizens of the Nine Star League. Using mental powers alone, these few Prime Talents transport ships, cargo and people between Earth's Moon, Mars' Demos and Jupiter's Callisto.

An orphaned young girl, simply called The Rowan, is discovered to have superior telepathic potential and is trained to become Prime Talent on Callisto. After years of self-sacrificing dedication to her position, The Rowan intercepts an urgent mental call from Jeff Raven, a young Prime Talent on distant Deneb. She convinces the other Primes to merge their powers with hers to help fight off an attack by invading aliens. Her growing relationship with Jeff gives her the courage to break her status-imposed isolation, and choose the more rewarding world of love and family.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1990

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About the author

Anne McCaffrey

386 books6,902 followers
Anne McCaffrey was born on April 1st, 1926, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Her parents were George Herbert McCaffrey, BA, MA PhD (Harvard), Colonel USA Army (retired), and Anne Dorothy McElroy McCaffrey, estate agent. She had two brothers: Hugh McCaffrey (deceased 1988), Major US Army, and Kevin Richard McCaffrey, still living.

Anne was educated at Stuart Hall in Staunton Virginia, Montclair High School in Montclair, New Jersey, and graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, majoring in Slavonic Languages and Literatures.

Her working career included Liberty Music Shops and Helena Rubinstein (1947-1952). She married in 1950 and had three children: Alec Anthony, b. 1952, Todd, b.1956, and Georgeanne, b.1959.

Anne McCaffrey’s first story was published by Sam Moskowitz in Science Fiction + Magazine and her first novel was published by Ballantine Books in 1967. By the time the three children of her marriage were comfortably in school most of the day, she had already achieved enough success with short stories to devote full time to writing. Her first novel, Restoree, was written as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in s-f novels in the 50s and early 60s. It is, however, in the handling of broader themes and the worlds of her imagination, particularly the two series The Ship Who Sang and the fourteen novels about the Dragonriders of Pern that Ms. McCaffrey’s talents as a story-teller are best displayed.

She died at the age of 85, after suffering a massive stroke on 21 November 2011.

Obituaries: Locus, GalleyCat.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 489 reviews
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
759 reviews1,454 followers
December 5, 2015
Look, I read a lot of McCaffrey when I was younger; I adored Pern, enjoyed Acorna, and even attempted Acorna's Children despite my deep fear of plagues and dislike of plague plots in fiction. I never got around to The Rowan, I think largely because it had Sexy Women on the front and I knew that, as a middle schooler, that was not the kind of book I should be carrying around. But nearly 10 years down the line here I am, having tracked this book down in a quest to whittle away at my To-Read shelf.

And boy, am I glad I didn't read it as a kid. Feeling this disappointed with an author I had loved* is bad enough, but if I had loved the book? This would have been devastating.

(*with full acknowledgement of all of the frankly fucked-up views Anne McCaffrey held, I still like some of her work and nearly cried when I heard she had passed away.)

This book is just... bad. There's no other word for it. As other reviewers have commented, it's interesting for about the first third, but then rapidly degenerates - as if McCaffrey forgot what a book is, or that plot and character development and conflict are key parts of a story, in the frankly incomprehensible desire to push the character of Jeff Raven to center stage.

Let's be real here: Jeff Raven ruined this entire story. You see that plot synopsis about how the Rowan was destined to be the greatest Talent? Bullshit. Jeff Raven is stronger than she is. Not only that, but he's got no weaknesses - the Rowan, in one of the few examples of conflict this book has to offer, fights to overcome a fear of space travel, but Jeff can already do it right off the bat! (As a super special bonus, he denigrates her for being afraid and struggling with that fear.) He's charming and attractive, despite being incredibly overbearing and patronizing! A single contact with his mind and the Rowan is in love, and everything interesting about her is thrown out the window. Before his arrival, she was powerful but flawed, prone to brattishness, fear, and insecurity; after she's mellowed and complacent and consistently plays second fiddle.

This could have been a character study of its titular character: McCaffrey could have explored the very real effects of the trauma Rowan suffered as a child, her effective indentured servitude to FT&T (and the limits thereof, because it was never clear how much freedom a Prime had to say 'no'), the structure of a society with all of these mental abilities... but instead there's a ham-fisted 'romance' and an even more ham-fisted alien threat, both of which are resolved quickly and without any struggle at all. If this were a debut novel I'd ask if the writer had ever heard of a try-fail cycle, but Dragonflight came out over 20 years before this.

There's no excuse. There's really not.

Some thoughts on McCaffrey's bizarre attitudes towards sex below.
Profile Image for Jamie.
1,374 reviews1,103 followers
September 30, 2016
Originally read: Many years ago (early/mid 90's)
Re-read: Sept 2016


This was the first book I ever read by Anne Mccaffrey. And I was hooked from the very beginning! A great science fiction with just a touch of romance. Well, more romance in the second half I should say. The series focuses heavily on telepathy, and psychokinesis. Those that have these abilities are known as Talents. Rowan is one such person.

The story starts the the girl (to be known as Rowan) at a very young age. This book follows her training as a talent and continues through her young adult years. The Rowan is found to be one of the strongest Talents (known as T1 Primes). Her only companion (besides her 'mentor/guardian/ Siglen)was a toy cat named Purza. She remembers nothing of her past prior to being found by the Talents. Her journey is a great one to read. There is tragedy and friendship.

I think I liked this a bit more the first time I read this. I was able to gloss over the romantic aspects more as a younger child and also somehow I seemed to have understood what was going on better then. I felt a little lost on the Sci-fi aspect at first. Still I really enjoy the book and it has a permanent home on my shelf.
Profile Image for kat.
555 reviews90 followers
February 6, 2015
Ohhhh goddamnit McCaffrey I just don't know.

So the first like 3/4 of this book is actually surprisingly great and features some really good female characters and The Rowan is powerful and sometimes scary and ... it actually had me going like maybe it is actually possible for McCaffrey to write a good story

and then Rowan falls in love "at first sight" with this powerful stranger telepath dude and like

Okay, actually, I am okay with this, because you just like fused minds with him and so I can get on board with that, it's romantic, you know each other SO WELL now

But then The Rowan turns into this weepy girl-child, she gets all weird and needy

and it turns out he's MORE POWERFUL than her because OF COURSE HE IS otherwise how could he be lovingly protective of her

and then he mind-rapes her SO THAT'S COOL I GUESS

and then there's all this shit about how all she wants to do is make babbies and now she finally feels happy and complete and FEMININE

and dude gets a promotion and is off having an active career while she decides to sort of lay low and be domestic

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
Profile Image for Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides.
2,081 reviews76 followers
May 22, 2012
So of course I'd read this before, many times — I used to love it, even. I saw it at the library's jumble sale, along with a bunch of its sequels. It was cheap and I was gripped by nostalgia, what can I say.

You can guess by that opening that I'm a bit embarrassed. Well, I am. How did I ever think this was a great romance? Look at it as the story of a charismatic megalomaniac coming along at a time and with the Talent to be helpful to humanity and feed his ego at the same time, and not a romance, and it's slightly less nauseating. (I accept that the couple here are compatible but that doesn't necessarily make it a fulfilling romance for the reader.)

However. There's a scene in here that's straight up mind rape even though it's presented as being for the titular character's own good. When Jeff Raven forces/compels/"helps" the Rowan to recover her memories: I agree that she wanted to remember who her parents are but ... he didn't warn her and you can't deny that consent was absent. Also, it doesn't help that on page 248, she remembers her parents' names, but on 276, she doesn't know, and finds out again, and they have different names than they did on 248! That kind of complete continuity failure really bugs me, even though it's not substantially important to the story.

Anne McCaffrey did have the capability of coming up with some interesting premises, and she had a way of storytelling that could easily engross the reader. But sometimes the characters and/or the plotlines are wince-inducing upon examination.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
32 reviews3 followers
September 21, 2012
I first read this book when I was 7 or 8 years old. I have read it EVERY year since. I love this book. I sincerly hope that they never make a movie about this book so that they cannot ruin it for me.
The thing that I love the most about her is that she is strong and fierce, but also soft and feminine. That is how I strive to be. She has influenced me throughout my adolescence and I will continue to read her story probably for the rest of my life. I will give this book to my children to read. I have given it to many friends to read. They ALL love it!

The story starts out on the planet of Altair. Rowan starts out a toddler and you get to follow her through her adolescence and into adulthood. Through loss and love, heartache and joy. And thankfully her story goes on in "Damia" a story about her daughter.
Profile Image for Summer.
1,350 reviews246 followers
April 1, 2010
The Rowan is about a woman who was found orphaned as a baby on a small mining planet. Her entire town was destroyed during a mudslide leaving her as the only survivor. She may not have survived anyways due to her being trapped inside a vehicle under the mud. However, Rowan has incredible psychic powers in telepathy and telekinesis which caused people from other planets to hear her crying. She was eventually saved and placed with someone to watch over her. Due to her strong powers, they thought that the Rowan would grow into someone called a Prime. Primes are the strongest of Talents, talents being people with psychic powers. She eventually grows up and takes over a Tower, but she's lonely and listless. Until one day she hears a distress signal from someone on a distant planet which changes her life forever.

I would give the first 2/3 of this book 4 stars. It kept my attention, I liked the characters, and even though it moved kind of slow I could tell it was building towards something. And then... I don't know. I got up to the part where the Rowan takes over a Tower and then she hears a distress signal and was still liking it. But then she merges herself with this stranger to help and it's instant love. He calls her 'love' and she's in love now even though they don't know anything about each other. Then they're sleeping together and within a few chapters she's pregnant and ... whaaa? I don't know, I thought there was this whole building of the character Rowan but the love story was instant. I'm not a big fan of 'love at first sight' relationships because you miss out on the characters getting to know each other and to me, you don't feel a connection to it. Now I'm just ranting. So basically I didn't like the ending but the beginning was really good. End rant.
Profile Image for posthuman.
64 reviews104 followers
January 12, 2020
I was surprised to learn this book was published in 1990. Judging by the cover artwork, anemic female lead and awkwardly drafted prose, I suspected it might have been a quickly thrown together pulp paperback from the early 1950s. The premise is interesting, but most of The Rowan reads like an unfinished early draft, or excruciatingly bad fan fiction grafted on top of a ridiculous Roger Corman movie.

This is my first time reading anything by Anne McCaffrey. All I knew of her was that she wrote a popular fantasy series about people riding dragons. Recently I've been comparing stories by various authors about telepathic characters. A Google search for "best novels about telepathy" popped out The Rowan at the top of the list with Charlaine Harris. It belongs on an different list of "worst novels ever published."

It's difficult to square the incredibly poor writing in this story with McCaffrey's commercial success. By this I don't mean simply uninspired writing, which can be found in some popular books, but the kind of undecipherable and awkward writing that makes a story rather difficult to follow.

In the distant future, some humans develop a powerful form of telepathy and telekinesis. By hurling spaceships and freight around at faster than light speeds, they settled multiple star systems. When sudden floods on the planet Altair trap a three year-old girl in a mudslide, she cries out for help with such enormous telepathic force that the entire planet can hear her. This girl, known as the Rowan, might turn out to be the strongest telepath in the galaxy.

Sounds like an interesting book, right? I thought so. Unfortunately, within the first couple chapters McCaffrey introduces dozens of named characters and jump cuts abruptly through stilted conversations of vague people in vague locations on a vague planet within a vague interstellar culture. By "vague" I mean everything is described in such general terms that I could barely follow what was happening, let alone form a vivid image of the characters interacting with their world.

" The concert was very good indeed, with three bands and some extremely clever light and sound variations: much more sophisticated than the Favor Bay recital. "


In the first half of the book, the author rarely focuses on any scene or character long enough for us to care about them or even form an understanding of the society they live in. More than anything else, by their stodgy speech patterns and interest in getting a nice tan, finding chaperones or "freshening up for Hotel Dances" etc, I suppose they seem plucked from 1940s or 50s Hollywood B movies:

" Glor-ree! Do I have to land all that mass there myself?

No, Lamebrain, I'll pick it up at 24.578.82, the lazy rich baritone voice drawled in every mind, that nice little convenient black dwarf midway. You won't need to strain a single neuron in your pretty little skull.

The silence was deafening.

Well, I'll be . . . came from the Rowan.

Of course, you are, sweetheart - just push that nice little package out my way. Or is it too much for you? The drawl was solicitous rather than insulting.

You'll get your package! replied the Rowan, and the dynamos keened piercingly just once as the ten tonnes disappeared out of the cradle.

Why, you little minx . . . slow it down or I'll burn your ears back!

Come out and catch it! The Rowan's laugh broke off in a gasp of surprise, and Ackerman could feel her slamming up her mental shields.

I want that stuff in one piece, not smeared a millimeter thin on the surface, my dear, the voice said sternly. OK. I've got it.

Thanks! We need this.

Hey, who the blazes are you? What's your placement?

Deneb VIII, my dear, and a busy boy right now. Ta-ta."


About a third of the way into the book, the Rowan visits a resort town and runs into Turian, a sailboat captain who was her girlhood crush. Although there is no connective tissue with sailing boats and the rest of the story, at least for the first time we have the semblance of an actual narrative scene, with some interesting conflict as the protagonist tries to hide her identity and abilities from him while learning to sail on rough seas.

Prior to the scene with Turian (and in much that follows) The Rowan reads like a transcription of someone's rambling improvised storytelling session about telekinetic stevedores. It feels like a very early draft, sort of made up on the fly with no editing or reshaping into a cohesive novel. It's hard to imagine any editor actually read this and signed off. It was painful going getting through this book:

" She may be Prime material but she's also a young girl and that side of her development shouldn't be neglected as -' Lusena tactfully broke off.

'I think a few words in the ear of the Medical Office might produce some results - especially if Bralla,' and the Interior winked at the woman, 'and Gerolaman notice that the Rowan is becoming listless, with no appetite . . . you know the sort of thing that can afflict the overextended youngster, Lusena.' 'Indeed I do.' 'Ill?' Siglen's eyes enlarged while she also appeared to compress herself.

'How is the child ill?' Rarely indisposed herself, Siglen had no patience with sickness.

'Well, as you know, Siglen, girls her age are prone to minor ailments and I do think she's sickening for something,' Bralla remarked. 'Why, you know yourself that her appetite's been poor these past few days. You might suggest to Lusena to remove her until the symptoms disappear.' 'To the infirmary?' 'Well, a full medical check never hurts,' Bralla replied.

'I'll make arrangements immediately.' So the Rowan was given an official leave to improve her health: Siglen practically ordering her out of the Tower."


After her brief romance with Turian, the Rowan is assigned to become the "Prime" of Jupiter's moon, Callisto. Primes are the most powerful of all with not only telekinetic ability, but the capacity to instantly teleport starships and even themselves across the galaxy. Each key transportation hub has a Prime assigned to launch or receive vehicles and freight.

The Rowan works 10 years as a glorified stevedore and then one day Jeff Raven reaches out to her from the Deneb system (2600 light years from Earth according to Google) and begins flirting with her while they liaise about freight shipments. She quickly falls for his Bing Crosby-like 1950s wit and tries to seduce him with her cooking. WTF?

The most powerful being in the universe must prove her worth as a person by cooking her man a hot meal. If there were at least some sense of the irony it might be interesting, but this is one of the least self-aware works of fiction I've ever read:

"I'll fix a meal guaranteed to raise all known energy levels. Then you may sleep as long as you need to.' She 'saw' him as he shucked off his clothing: very privately she compared him to Turian's heavier build and the Captain's deep tan.

Then she decided that she liked his spare build, lean, muscled back and narrow hips; bulky people irritated her.

With good reason, Jeff remarked as he eased himself into the steaming pool. She had half-expected him to dive in, for it was deep enough, and heard his denying chuckle.

Another time, he told her with a sigh of total relaxation as he floated. Fix me that food, love, or I' ll starve to death in my sleep.

She sent the water pillow to hold up his head and felt her lips tingle with an impressed kiss. She smiled as she collected the necessary foodstuffs from storage. Siglen may have adored eating for its own sake, but the Rowan had learned the fundamentals of good nutrition and the value of well-prepared and presented food.

'What will people think of me when they see you so thin, Rowan?

Eat more! It's really delicious. If you'd only force yourself to eat . . .' Siglen's wheedling tone resounded in the Rowan's ears.

It was, however, infinitely more satisfying to prepare something for Jeff Raven. So involved was she in making certain that all nutritional elements had balanced tastefully that the Rowan was astonished to feel the rhythms of profound sleep emanating from her lover. A moment's pique was soothed by her realization that she would indeed have all the time in the world to prove her worth as a cook."


McCaffrey describes Jeff Raven as the most charming guy in the Milky Way, and frequently tells the reader how he charmed this person and that person, but in the actual dialogue that she wrote for him he doesn't seem charming at all - more like someone's cheesy impression of a 1950s actor.

" He did a repeat of his act at Callisto Station, only this time the Rowan listened in. Just to see how he managed to charm so many people so completely in so short a time. He imaged her as a tiny mascot tucked over his ear as he talked Gerolaman into a buoyant mood.

He was nearly as fast charming both Bastian and Maharanjani, despite the fact that they had recognized him as heavy Talent and suspected his true identity."


There are at least a few decent scenes that follow - twice, Jeff's planet is attacked by insectoid aliens and both times the Rowan orchestrates a kind of mind meld with all the strongest telepaths and telekinetics to help save his planet; she learns how to teleport herself to Jeff's planet and meets his family; she gives birth. Otherwise, the rest of the book is mostly filler scenes with very little conflict or progression of the story. For such an insanely powerful protagonist it's strange that her main goal seems to be having lots of babies and impressing Jeff with her cooking, with no irony whatsoever.

So, who should read this book? Nobody. I regret wasting the hours I spent reading it and hopefully I can save you from the same experience. It was useless for my own research. I can't conceive of any possible reader who would enjoy this. I'd urge even the most die-hard Anne McCaffrey fan to steer clear of this steaming hunk of space junk.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,319 reviews456 followers
September 17, 2017
Even the critical reviews here on Goodreads point out that at least the book starts off well. I would have to disagree. Apart from the absurdity of people moving spaceships with their minds is the bizarre writing style. The author uses lots of ten-dollar SAT words but then employs basic vocabulary in confusingly imprecise fashion, for example calling a 3-year-old an "infant" (in conversations where a pediatrician is present). If you are going to dig through the dictionary, then look at the definitions and the nuances of meaning that distinguish similar words from each other.
Profile Image for Maggie K.
465 reviews121 followers
October 24, 2011
Ugh.
I am so annoyed I wasted a whole day on this book. But, I am even more annoyed that is was voted the book of the month under Women in Sci-Fi.
This is space romance. Telekinesis and TElepathy joined in one person, albeit on a space station, does not Science Fiction make, even if there is an alien invasion. And no, I do not beleive in 'Love at first mind-brush'.

To be fair, this book starts well. A small child is the only survivor of a landslide, and her anguished mental state calls for her rescue among the telepaths of the universe. Amazed at such powers in such a young child, she is trained up to be the strongest 'talent' there is.In a remniscence of Weber's Harrington novels, she even gets the honor of being adopted by a Barquecat.

OK, good premise, could lead to something very interesting. But NOOOOOOOOO. A raw talent in a nearby colony calls out for help, and the Rowan is instantly in love. What? Seriously? They immediately get together and start making babies. What? Seriously? and the guy pretty much immediately starts getting massages and griping about where to live. and the Barquecat? Oh, she gave that away. Explained off in one sentence. Seriously?

Because of their love they are able to brush away some hive-type beetle invaders. Ta-da. Family and love wins out. In like a paragraph. Seriously?
Ugh. Women in Science Fiction? I need a shower....
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,406 reviews534 followers
July 31, 2007
The Rowan is an orphaned girl with incredible psychic power and a cute little psychic pet. Oh the pain she suffers from being an orphan! Oh the oppression of being so powerful! Oh the agony of no one understanding your Speshulness!
Profile Image for keikii Eats Books.
1,061 reviews54 followers
August 14, 2022
To read more reviews in this series and others, check out my blog keikii eats books!

97 points, 5 STARS!

Quote:
Instead, she had gone from one lonely tower to another. Yegrani’s ‘long and lonely road’ had been before her a long and lonely time.

Review:
I absolutely loved reading The Rowan. It was like this book was specifically created to hit all of my "Oh my god, I love it!" buttons. It is slow paced, taking the reader through the life of The Rowan. Perhaps a bit slower than some readers might wish McCaffrey to go, even. Yet I loved the pace, and I loved watching The Rowan grow up.

This is the start of a spinoff from McCaffrey's The Talents series, several generations removed from the characters in those books, so it isn't necessary to read The Talent before reading this (and I wouldn't even recommend that you do). I'd guess at the very least seven generations have passed, if not more. Mankind has found a way to colonize space. And the only way they could do that was through the help of extremely talented Prime telekinetics and telepaths who work tirelessly to shift people and supplies and send messages across the galaxy.

Enter The Rowan. She was found as a toddler because she kept sending a distress signal to an entire planet. Her family all dead, she grew up a ward of the planet for the good of FT&T, who are the organization that employs the Primes. The Rowan is extremely powerful from an unbelievably young age. She grew up knowing she would be a Prime, and she grew up with everyone else knowing she would be a Prime. Which means that she was training to work even as a young kid. That is all she ever really does is work and study, even from as young as nine years old, except for some short vacations.

We follow The Rowan as she grows up. She is so incredibly lonely. It is heartbreaking. She works and she works and she works, because she doesn't really have any peers. Everyone around her is an underling, they all answer to her. And then midway through the book, she gets trapped on a Callisto, one of Jupiter's moons for Story Reasons, which makes The Rowan even more lonely. Because she doesn't have anyone and can't go anywhere. It breaks my heart.

Until a colony planet, Deneb, is attacked by aliens and is requesting help from Earth Prime. Only, Deneb got The Rowan, instead. Which is the start to not only an amazing story, but a beautiful relationship as well when Deneb turns out to be a newly awakened Prime worthy of being with The Rowan.

I absolutely adored this book, and I honestly would consider rereading it at some point in the future. It just felt so right.
Profile Image for Jim.
46 reviews2 followers
March 20, 2008
I can't help it, I love these books. I have read this one four times now over a 17 year period. I highly recommend the Pegasus series followed by the Rowan series.

Told in the timeless style of Anne McCaffrey, The Rowan is the first installment in a wonderful trilogy. This is sci-fi at its best: a contemporary love story as well as an engrossing view of our world in the future.

The kinetically gifted, trained in mind/machine gestalt, are the most valued citizens of the Nine Star League. Using mental powers alone, these few Prime Talents transport ships, cargo and people between Earth's Moon, Mars' Demos and Jupiter's Callisto.

An orphaned young girl, simply called The Rowan, is discovered to have superior telepathic potential and is trained to become Prime Talent on Callisto. After years of self-sacrificing dedication to her position, The Rowan intercepts an urgent mental call from Jeff Raven, a young Prime Talent on distant Deneb. She convinces the other Primes to merge their powers with hers to help fight off an attack by invading aliens. Her growing relationship with Jeff gives her the courage to break her status-imposed isolation, and choose the more rewarding world of love and family.
Profile Image for Sandy.
238 reviews3 followers
September 18, 2017
Not a bad book, the writing just isn't to my taste. This author's books have always been hit and miss for me. Some suck me right in but the writing in a lot of them feels sterile. Unfortunately, this was one that just didn't work for me.
Profile Image for Jerry.
4,617 reviews54 followers
July 27, 2020
A good story marred by sexual content and profanity...which seems to be the case with many of Anne McCaffrey's books.
Profile Image for Sarah.
3,323 reviews1,013 followers
September 15, 2019
I read quite a few of Anne McCaffrey's Pern books when I was a teenager but I've not read anything of hers in years so I was quite excited to give this series a try when my friend told me it was one of her favourites. I actually read this when I was visiting my friend back in June so I've really left it too long to write a comprehensive review but I did really enjoy the world that the author has created here.

Set in a distant future where humans have colonised planets across the universe some of us, known as The Talents, have developed all kinds of telepathic and other psychic abilities. These powers vary in strength and very few people are considered Primes, those capable of incredible feats. This is the story of The Rowan, the first Prime ever born on the planet Altair. She was born in a small and isolated mining colony and was discovered as a three year old child who was heard by every Talent across the planet telepathically screaming for help when the entire colony was destroyed in a landslide. The Rowan was the only survivor and she was taken in by the Prime living closest to her so that they could start her training young.

This story follows her journey throughout her childhood and into an adult as she learns to use her abilities. I enjoyed her story and watching her grow into a smart and fierce young woman and I really loved seeing her step forward as a leader as she grew in confidence. I'm definitely looking forward to continuing the series and seeing what happens next.
Profile Image for Chris Gager.
1,933 reviews72 followers
January 29, 2021
Time for a sci-fi read and I'm choosing an old favorite author. I've read several of McCaffrey's Pern books, but this one is non-Pern. A found(free) book in very good condition. So far it's been the "girliest" sci-fi book I've ever read. That's NOT a knock on the book, in fact I'm having fun with it so far. The world AM describes for us is one in which humans have moved out into the nearest habitable planets in other solar systems. The expanding human culture has come to be dominated by those with various degrees of psychic powers. Interesting ... so far. I see that there are a lot of bad reviews on G'reads.

- nice cover art ...

- reminds a bit of the last two books in the Hyperion series

Closing in on halfway now and wondering when the sci-fi story is going to kick in. Ms. McCaffrey is a decent writer, but that doesn't make what's written(content) more palatable when a sci-fi story veers into romance novel blah-blah, as this one does when the Rowan get her first(intense and heavy) taste of sex with someone nearly twice her age(another connection to Rise of Endymion). UGH! Did AM feel the need to get gooey because the book is centered about a beautiful young woman???? My message to her(if she were alive to receive it(maybe telepathically?) is ... Let's GO! While we're young!(thanks, Rodney).

Moving on and liking this a bit better now that the romance/sex moosh has taken a back seat to the plot. Still, the sci-fi is still pretty sketchy and the world-building practically non-existent. Certainly, Ms. McCaffrey has done that much better in her Pern series. On wonders if advancing age undermined this writer's so-so-creative efforts here. It HAS been known to happen. I'll probably finish up tonight just to get this over with. One hopes for some interesting sci-fi, but I'm not holding my breath. Notes(snark):

- What happened to the cat? Given short shrift IMHO. I mean ... it IS on the cover.

- All the sex and love yak-yak and "other" details are vomit-inducing. Feeling someone up long-range is downright creepy. The Rowan's bed-pal Raven is borderline overbearing, controlling, immature and obnoxious(IMHO).

- "Honey," "Pet," "Dearling??????," "Love(y)," "Dear Heart," "Cariad"(????) ... HELP! One mention of The Raven's "loins" is one too many.

- In addition to that "steaming cup," AM drops a "you see" into the dialogue. That's a sure tell of awkward, phoney-sounding language.

- I DID like The Raven's new-agey medical treatment and revival of the stricken Jeff.

- The author seems to have no problem with the entire continent of North America(the habitable part at least) being swallowed up by The City megalopolis. Bye-bye nature ...

Finished with this one a couple of nights ago by skip-skimming to the end. The yak-yak continued right up to the oh-so-obvious defeat-the-invaders conclusion(somewhat reminiscent of The Borg(from Star Trek)Ender's Game and The Fall of Hyperion[the aliens]). The baddies were mind-blown(literally) by the "talented" humans who dispatch them in between supposed-to-be-amusing bantering. All-in-all I call this pretty small beer as sic-fi and in comparison to better/earlier efforts by the author. If Goodreads offered six stars to us reviewers this would be an obvious 3* book, but in our 5-star universe that's too high a rating. I'll settle on 2.5*, which in my world rounds down to 2*. I'd be up for reading another Pern book by McCaffrey, but no more of this underachieving junk will I set before my eyes.
Profile Image for Jean.
197 reviews12 followers
June 17, 2013
Oh dear, what happened here? For the first third of the book, I was so immensely impressed at what a deep and multi-faceted character McCaffrey had created. The intimacy of watching her struggle with the ordinary, natural things that girls do (first-time autonomy as a teen, losing one's virginity) as well as growing up, well, different set it so apart from so many books I've read lately. While it was stressed she was different, it was the traits that made her a typical teenage girl that interested me, and I found them to be immensely deftly handled.


And then it all changed. And then the Callisto section of the book began, and I wanted to cry. The initial mental flirting between the Rowan and Jeff Raven actually hints at what could have been, if that part didn't suddenly move at light speed and an acute case of INSTA-LOVE didn't develop. To start with, we miss ten years of her life; we have no idea how she got from the death of a guardian and a spiritual and sexual awakening to being a task-master and temperamental bitch; this is told to us from the point of view of the characters around her, and offers little insight into how or why this happened. Is it normal for Primes? Is it a reaction to the sudden responsibility or the grief she suffered and the sudden loss of a childhood? Doesn't matter, because you're not gonna find out. What you are going to learn about, however, is how CHARMING and BRILLIANT Jeff Raven is. And how, after telepathically flirting, and one mind-merge later, the Rowan would be compelled to constantly launch herself into his arms, calling, "DARLING!" Seriously, the relationship made a lot of the YA I've read recently look reasonable.


And yet! I thought there was still hope when the Deneb section began! Rowan was gaining character development again! And while she was there for Jeff, she had an interaction with someone other than the men on her station. Yes, an actual other woman! And just when I was despairing! And I liked Isthia, I really did. But here we have mother and lover, and while they do work separately from Jeff, the book takes on the feel of beginning to revolve around Jeff.


And that isn't helped when he's offered Earth Prime, and Rowan is content because she apparently has no ambition. Hey, motherhood is an ambition, and not one I'm putting down, in the least! My own mother chose it over a career. But Rowan suddenly seems to want to be pregnant every sixteen months, keep her job and neither move up or really keep her focus on it, as she was.


I've not read the Pegasus Trilogy, so I was unfamiliar and fascinated with the world that McCaffrey had built. The ridiculously rushed conclusion to the novel, an epic battle that's too easily won against a villain that isn't developed in the least (and seems to be the token effort to bring back any revolutionary feeling of feminism to the novel, by having only the women able to sense the impending assault--which feels as if it backfires because one would hope we'd be more advanced as a society than to say, "Oh, they must all just be on their period, am I right? Who trusts women?!") seems to be expanded on in further books (hence the "Hive" portion of the series' title), but I won't be reading.


There's nothing quite so painful than a book that has you to begin with, and then loses you so completely. Two stars for McCaffrey's gorgeous writing style and the bits that I did like. About one-half for the rest.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Rhode PVD.
2,304 reviews23 followers
October 20, 2022
THIS STORY DID NOT HOLD UP AT ALL. I vaguely remember reading the paperback when it was first published and being meh. But now, oh my god how awful.

Fat shaming to hell and back. Ceaseless, overt fat shaming.

A teenaged Rowan breaks the rules of consent by inveighling a 30-something man into bed with her who she knows full well would have never slept with her if he’d known her age. It’s like 2-3 chapters of how ‘clever’ she is to nail him.

An adult Rowan turns into a raging, miserable bitch to everyone around her for years because she believes there’s no men worthy of dating or marrying her so, omg life so empty!

A date-worthy man shows up and Insta-love without learning a single thing about him (age, marital status, interests, zilch) aside from the fact that he’s condescending AF to her via telepathy. But thankfully, now she’s nice to people because she has a man. (Vomit.)

The Rowan declares 10 minutes after hours of agony giving birth that now that she’s tried it, she wants more babies. (Also, why don’t they teleport the kid out of the womb?)

She’s EXCITED that a far less qualified man will become Earth Prime instead of herself because heavy responsibility is icky for a woman.

I want to rinse my ears out.
Profile Image for Carolyn F..
3,342 reviews51 followers
October 23, 2014
Audiobook

2-1/2 stars.

What I liked about this book? I especially enjoyed the whiny heroine having fits all over the place. NOT!

That's one of the reasons for this low rating. The mind meld stuff was so boring to me but that might have to do with it not being easily transferable to audiobook. I'll let that be another excuse why I didn't like the book very much. I never got into the hero either, very egotistical, but then what can you expect from a man who everyone likes.

So I don't think I'll read/listen to anymore of this series.
155 reviews
December 12, 2011
I have to admit that when I first read the blurb I thought it would be a very complicated sci fi story and that I wouldn't love it as much as Anne McCaffrey's dragon books. Well... I was WRONG! This is one of the best book (and series) I have read in a long time. It ranks close to Harry Potter, if not higher. And I stand by what I just said.

Anne McCaffrey wrote two series in the Talents universe which involves Earth functioning thanks to the Talents of telepathic or telekinetic persons in an interstellar society. Those Talents are used to communicate and teleport spaceships through space. The Rowan is the first novel of the Tower and Hive series which counts five books in chronological order, each narrated by a different person. The novels can work as standalones but you might want to read them in the order! I have finished reading the third one and I am hooked!

This series is original, inventive, thoroughly fascinating and wonderfully written. I started reading it and thought how much it made sense that humans would have found a way to colonise other planets and that - of course - Talents exist and would take a bigger role in our society in the future. At school and University you look at history through a different timeline and try to isolate trends and maybe signs in previous generations of what would ultimately happen, and I find the Tower and Hive series to be something like a possible future for us when you think about it. (I am not making any sense, am I? Sorry!)

Aside from the fact that the plot is cleverly construed and presented in a very clear way, the story in itself is fabulous! So you enjoy a great story and at the same time it makes you think about several themes = win win :)

The Rowan is the name of the main character, a little girl on the planet Altair who loses her family in a terrible accident. Her entire village is destroyed but somehow, the child survives and is in such a panic that she broadcasts her screams both physically and mentally to a degree that everyone on the planet can hear her. She is seen as one of the most promising Talents in the Universe and is trained by Siglen, the Prime of Altair. The Rowan is also raised by Lusena who will be a mother figure for her even though The Rowan feels very much alone and not well accepted by her peers.
The book tells the story of The Rowan from infancy to her adult years so I can't delve too much into the plot without spoiling some of the story but let me tell you that there are EXCITING moments as well as some truly ROMANTIC moments (which, I have to admit, were so adorable that a lot of swoon ensued).
The Rowan is a fantastic character and it is really interesting to see her mature through the book. She is very strong but has her soft spots. I also *adore* Afra and Jeff Raven is fabulous (you'll see what I mean when you read it!).

One aspect of this book I loved was how technical the whole space transport system is. I mean, it isn't fascinating in itself but the story is so well plotted that all the technical bits and pieces are taken into account and I love how even the station assistants have an important role in the system. It also shows how dependent each planet/system is with others and how things work more smoothly with cooperation. The book really brings forward the humanity of some characters and ideas like equality and solidarity which can be applied to international relations today.

Each new Anne McCaffrey book I pick up looks weird and something I might not like at first but it takes me a few pages to immerse myself in a new adventure that is thrilling to read and fascinating to think about. The descriptions are so vivid that I can't help thinking Anne McCaffrey had the talent to see the future and she is merely reporting what will exist! I am also amazed at how contemporary some of the themes and issues presented in the book are. The stories are very visionary and I can't wait to get my hands on all the others! As per usual, I can't recommend reading Anne McCaffrey enough!
Profile Image for MasterSal.
1,940 reviews11 followers
December 31, 2019
One of the first sci-fi books I ever read largely due to the cover. Covers help people!

Re-read August 2019

I had read this book around ‘95 or so - a couple of years after this was published it turns out. I got it from my high-school library mostly due to the cover which had this imposing picture of a woman with a cute cat / leopard (see hardback cover). I remember quite a bit of the story but never finished the series as my library didn’t have the rest. So when I recently saw the awfulness that are the new covers for the series I knew I had to read this again. This was one of the first sci-fi books I read so I have fond memories of this.

For everyone considering buying the books again in the 2012 paperback edition, I will say that the quality of the book was not great. The words seemed like they were double printed - I was not happy with the paper and print quality but the story reads so quickly that I didn’t have to suffer through this a lot.

In the end, I will say that one should not read childhood books because one sees issues as an adult that can kind of ruin the memories. This is especially true for books written in the 80s / 90s which are close enough to be contemporary but still dated. As an example, the world-building in this book was thin, but given that this was 320-ish pages do I give it a pass as I cannot expect the world-building that is possible in today’s books where every Jane, Joe and Jack are getting to write 800 page books? In the end, I knocked down the rating of the book because Ms. McCaffrey has done better in her own works and other writers have done it better even with more limited space. See her Dragonriders of Pern series as an example of a stronger alternative.

The book is divided into three distinct parts which are almost equal - the Rowan’s childhood, her meeting of Jeff Raven and her post-marriage life. There is some alien invasion thing which drives the latter books, I think, but here it’s a blink-and-you-miss-it affair. The pace should therefore be ‘fast-paced’ but it comes across superficial - there is just too much that the book needs to do, including setting up the post-Prime world and the characters, and none of it is done particularly well. The conflicts are introduced and resolved too quickly to generate any tension or stakes.

The side characters are ok - nothing memorable - except for Jeff Raven - who is a Marty Stue. He irked me - and I recall from my dim past - that he irked me on first reading as well. His introduction robs the Rowan of any agency or the plot of any mystery on how the Prime’s power work. He can do everything and do it better than everyone! I found his character to be super irritating and not witty at all.

In the end - I would rate this a 2 stars but I am reducing the rating to three only because of the fact that, despite all the problems, the world stayed with me for decades (the ranking system, the Towers, the Rowan and her white hair). This is an average book which suffers from the introduction of an OP character who shuttles off the MC to the side. This should not happen but somehow Ms. McCaffrey creates something which will burrow in your brain.
Profile Image for Ryan.
569 reviews20 followers
August 27, 2015
The Rowan, and it's sequels, are comfort reading for me. I'm not a huge science fiction fan, nor am I really a fan of Anne McCaffrey. I've tired to read the Dragonriders of Pern books, but really can't get into them at all. But there is something about this series, these particular characters, that I can't seem to ever let go of, and choose to revisit every once in a while.

I'm sure part of it's because the Rowan, whose real name ends up being Angharad Gwyn, and her sense of isolation and loneliness that tugs at those same feelings in my own life. Because of all the moving and traveling we did as a kid, I never really had the opportunity to stay around kids my own age, which means I really never learned how to develop lasting friendships. I couldn't relate to them, so loneliness was a very real thing for me growing up. Add in the feelings of growing up a gay kid, and you can imagine that it wasn't a ton of fun for me. Like the Rowan, I grew up, and while that loneliness never goes away all the way, I've learned to deal with it, and have come out of my shell quite a bit. She is an amazing character, one that changes so much through this books, and it's sequels, but like a lot of my favorite characters, she is more than that for me. She's like a sister I never knew I had, or a long lost cousin, one I get to reconnect with every year or so.

What really sets this book apart from the rest of what I've read from McCaffrey, are the secondary and supporting characters. There really isn't a weak or unnecessary one in the whole bunch, and I'm in love with them about as much. I adore Jeff Raven, and his mother for that matter. He's such a quietly confident individual, and he is the perfect match for the Rowan. They compliment each other in ways, I can only hope of finding in my own life. I've always pictured them this way; take the relationship that Nick and Nora Charles have, take away the alcohol, give them monstrous telepathic/telekinetic abilities, and put them in space. They are one of those couples that just fits, and nothing could ever force them apart. There's also Afra Lyon, who I love just about as much, and a whole host of equally compelling characters. When you put them together, it's the perfect family portrait, just mixed in with telepathy and invading aliens.
Profile Image for Estara.
799 reviews125 followers
November 30, 2011
I picked this as my first reread of her books - not because I don't have loads of others I could reread but I have realised that I know the plots of almost all books still to a pretty large degree of detail - although my last time rereading is probably ten years in the past.

That's because I discovered her as one of the major female sf&f authors in print in the UK when I went over there for the first time as an au-pair in 88/89. And even in Germany's university towns later one I could get her newest releases in the university bookshops. Not many female authors of the genre there! Which means I've read and reread and reread her books umpteenth times, because choice was less varied and my income at student level, heh.

This comfort read still drags me in and swallows me whole - even as I can see some sappy dialogue and situations. But you know? There's loneliness and peer pressure in this book like in my YA novels today, but there's also self-confidence, a healthy exploration of sex and tender loving care (although no true sex scenes - even though we get telekinetically induced orgasm ^^ once), a praise of families and the acceptance that difficult personalities have to compromise to get things done.

The side characters, as in all McCaffrey books, are personas in their own right, from Purza to Siglen to the third Reidinger to Afra to Turian to Guzman to Elizara and Isthia and so forth.

Possibly the earlier Tower and Hive books - the Pegasus ones - might not be as imprinted on my brain. But I doubt it. Maybe I should simply reread Killashandra, even though I know the plot there by heart, too. Or Restoree, or The Ship Who Sang, or Decision at Doona.
Profile Image for C..
69 reviews2 followers
July 8, 2008
This is one of my favorite novels, even though it is definitely not one of the best novels I've read.

When I read anything, I tend to enjoy it more when the character development is strong enough that I care about what the characters think and feel, and especially what happens to them.

Anne McCaffrey may be weak at creating actual science fiction—I consider this book to be more of a futuristic fantasy than hard science fiction—but she is fantastic at showing you who a character is as a person, and telling stories about people instead of about some clever idea he has, which almost always makes a novel weak.

McCaffrey has a fairly optimistic view of what it would be like to have people in the universe that had telepathic, empathic, telekinetic, etc. abilities and how they would benefit all aspects of society. The story follows the main character—an orphan called The Rowan—through her very early years into adulthood, exploring the challenges a uniquely strong Talent would face in her life, and explores what it might mean to have extremely strong telepathic plus telekinetic "Talents" that, with assistance, can literally reach across light years.

The primary flaw with this novel is that The Rowan suddenly changes from a mostly sympathetic character in Part One of the novel to (for lack of a better term) a harridan in Part Two. I believe the main reason for this sudden shift is that originally the novel was a short story that starts where Part Two of this novel starts, and McCaffrey needed a more likable character for the extended story, but wanted to retain the spirit of the original. In Part Three she settles into a more moderate character that feels like an averaging of the two personalities that appears earlier in the book.

I liked the whole series which is usually called "The Tower and the Hive" series, even though the last novel feels more like a "tying up loose ends" story than anything. However, this book easily stands on its own.
Profile Image for Charlee Allden.
Author 3 books797 followers
February 17, 2013
The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey is the first novel I ever read that I could not put down. I read it straight through cover to cover. I do that fairly often these days, but at the time it was an event that rocked my world. I once heard a male sci-fi author call McCaffrey’s books a gateway drug for getting girls into sci-fi, but for me this book clued me in on what was missing from the sci-fi books I’d already been reading—romance. The Rowan catapulted to the top of my all time favorites list and here’s why….

What I love about the heroine:

Rowan is a lonely young woman, with incredible psychic gifts, who takes herself too seriously at times. Doesn’t sound like heroine material right? But it makes her very relatable. Trust me on this. She also has courage, always manages to rise above events, and steps up to the plate to save the world and her hero.

What I love about the hero:

Jeff Raven is a mystery man who calls out to his heroine across space. He matches her for psychic abilities and courage with a touch of charming arrogance added in. Besides, he is struggling desperately to save his people, what could be more heroic?

Other cool stuff I like about this story:

The psychics in this book are charged with making space travel happen. They push cargo and passenger vessels through space with their minds. Cool!
Profile Image for IJM.
93 reviews5 followers
January 31, 2019
This book left me frustrated. On the one hand, you have this great world building by the author. I wanted to know so much more about the universe of the book. The main character was intriguing as well. The first half of the book as really interesting. The second half morphed into a love story that seemed really quick and felt very heavy handed. Events like an alien invasion are sped through to dedicate more time to the love story of Rowan and Jeff. And personally, I just felt like the talents joining forces together to destroy massive alien bugs was more interesting than The Rowan and Jeff being all lovey-dovey with each other.

I also wasn't sure how we were supposed to dislike Siglen because she was difficult to her staff, but forgive The Rowan for being difficult with her staff. It's also very interesting that Siglen's plus size body and wanting to make sure The Rowan was never hungry is presented as part of her character/moral failings. Also, Jeff was very condescending. We're told we're supposed to find him charming, without him actually saying or doing anything charming.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Chinook.
2,239 reviews19 followers
March 15, 2019
I wasn’t quite as obsessed with this series as McCaffrey’s Pern, but I’ve read it a good half dozen times - just not in some years. By some weirdness of publishing rights, it’s somehow only available as a ebook in the UK. Irritating because I’ve actually wanted to start a reread for a good year now and even caved and bought a second paperback copy of the book in Denver, but I find it so hard to read tree books these days. I started it today when Maddie was having some downtime on her tablet, read all through her nap, and then finished it off just before putting the girls to bed.

The romance seems a bit too sudden and uncomplicated as an adult reader, but overall I did enjoy rereading it. It was a bit funny that the alien attack bits seem almost tacked on, coming so close to the end of book.
Profile Image for Amy mcmillen-smith.
1 review2 followers
August 31, 2020
I have always had a lot of books even as a child but when I was in school I stopped reading till I was 20 and this was the first book I picked up it was my moms and she was so happy I had started reading again that when I looked like I was bored she would ask me where I was in the book and then give me a hint as to what was to come needless to say I finished it and went right to get the next one it got to the point where I got lost in my books for weeks and I have a huge collection now the only thing is now when it was my mom reading to me I have been having to help her due to her vision and bad head aches I have been trying to get her to use her e reader to buy the authorities book but to no avail I wish that she could start reading again so I could get her some of the new stuff that thanks to her and this book I fell in love with reading again
Profile Image for Rebecca.
22 reviews
July 29, 2012
The only reason I picked up this book was because there was a short story in Get off the Unicorn and it peaked my interest - I was NOT a reader. I read this book and loved it and it basically was the spark that started my love of reading. While it reads almost like a biography, going from infancy through to marriage and all the struggles in between of a talented girl and the expectations thrust up on her, the world Anne McCaffrey has created and her characters leaves you wanting more. I have read this book many times, have had to replace my mass market copy and expect I will read it many more times. A must read for any reader, regardless of your preferred genre.
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