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The Steerswoman's Road

(The Steerswoman #1-2)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  75 reviews
If you ask, she will answer. If she asks, you must reply. A steerswoman will speak only the truth to you, as long as she knows it—and you must do the same for her. And so, across the centuries, the Steerswomen— questioning, searching, investigating—have slowly learned more and more about the world through which they wander. All knowledge the Steerswomen possess is given fr ...more
Paperback, Omnibus, 668 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Del Rey
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  478 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Nick Fagerlund
Feb 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Low-tech scientist-adventurer kicks ass, takes names, takes extensive notes (with diagrams), and gets shot at by ancient ecocidal weapons systems. Fucking absolutely amazing. I recommend this book series without a single reservation. Could go on and on and on, but a: I'll save it for LJ, and b: must be careful not to screw up the reveals, which are myriad and totally sweet. ...more
Oct 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
Fantasy and I have had a tepid relationship as of late. I've always been more of a science fiction fan, anyway, but I've been thoroughly unable to get into the last few fantasy books I've attempted to read. The Steerswoman was thus unexpectedly awesome. As many reviewers have noted, this is basically a science fiction story in the guise of fantasy, which probably explains my reaction. The main characters (who are awesome, by the way) use critical thinking in their search for knowledge whereas a ...more
Tudor Ciocarlie
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jo-waltons-rec
Great novel! I love how Kirstein dresses a science fiction book into perfect fantasy clothes. It will be a great journey of discovery for me and for Rowan in the second volume, because every tiny bit of this apparently fantasy world has a science-fictional explanation. I can't wait! ...more
May 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book to pieces. It is very difficult to describe. At heart the story is of one woman, interested in ferreting out information on a curiosity and it blows up into a world in danger. Sort of without the reader even being aware until you get there.

I find the concept of the steerswomen fascinating, a group of people dedicated to knowledge, gathering it and sharing it freely like human libraries wandering the earth. I did find a bit of a logical flaw in their makeup but I got over it.
Liz Henry
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf, feministsf, reread
I love the Steerswoman books! Rowan is a steerswoman, part of a guild of travelling librarian/archivist/researchers who swear to answer any question truthfully. She meets up with a fabulous sword wielding barbarian. When they investigate the mystery of some weird jewels, wizards start trying to kill them. Except it's actually all science fiction, with computers and satellites and radioactive weapons and blacksmith's children inventing gunpowder!

The Steerswoman books are awesome for showing cult
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
MB (What she read)
Okay, that was interesting!

The first book "The Steerwoman" felt like a standard fantasy, if fairly slow going. But Kirstein gives you the clues bit by bit and you the reader as well as the characters build up them up piece by piece.

The second book "The Outskirters Secret" was more interesting to me and I really liked the world buildup of the Outskirts including the flora and fauna, the tribal life and customs, and the way they all interacted. I also especially enjoyed the friendship between th
Lis Carey
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: f-sf
This is an omnibus edition of The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret, originally published in 1989 and 1992. They're books with the outward form of fantasy, and the underlying structure of science fiction.

Rowan is a steerswoman, an initiate of a privileged group of knowledge-gatherers who travel assigned routes through the world, filling in missing details and sharing their gathered knowledge with anyone who asks--provided that they also answer any questions the steerswomen have. Individual
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Steerswoman's Road is two books in one - The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret
I first read Rosemary Kirstein's “Steerswoman” over ten years ago, re-read it a couple of times and having just re-read it again am reviewing it.
It is the first book of four published (so far). To long term fans of this series – like me – it is great news that Rosemary Kirstein is back at work on book five. On her blog it says that by September 2018 she hopes to be able to have a better idea when the publica
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Those from the wealthy Inner Lands fear the warriors from the dangerous Outskirts, but Rowan and Bel buck this trend when they become allies and close friends. This volume contains two novels in the Steerswoman series: in the first, we explore the prosperous Inner Lands, encounter magic and wizards, and see Rowan and Bel for the courageous and compassionate women they are. In the second, more compelling, novel, we travel to the dangerous Outskirts, where humans eek out a living on the dangerous ...more
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow! I found this on a list of recommendations from Jo Walton, because Walton is currently one of my favourite authors. Clearly she can be trusted.

You get pretty far into this book before you realize it's a completely different story than you thought it was going to be. Kirstein provides subtle clues, and the pace of the reveals is perfect. Plus, this book is feminist without ever overtly talking about women's rights. It's just part of the world-building, and it's totally matter-of-fact. Also,
Diane Baker
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This series looks like fantasy, but behind it is real science, and the mind of a scientist: Rowan, the Steerswoman. Ask her a question, and she'll answer you, but you must answer her questions truthfully, or she (and any other Steerswoman) will never answer your questions again. Ever. (Makes you wish you were a Steerswoman yourself.)

Rowan seeks knowledge as avidly as a thirsty person seeks water in a desert. The story stays in the mind a long time, and one must pay attention to small details to
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
There are so many words I want to use to describe how much in love I am with this book (or two books, as it were) and I can't seem to bring them together coherently. I fail as a critical reviewer.

Still, I was hoping for Bel and Rowan to get together. None of my favorite female relationships seem to end up that way. None! I just want lesbians in all my fiction. Is that so much to ask?!
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book gets such a high rating not for the story (which is good but not amaaazing) but the fact that there are TWO strong independent female protagonists who are NOT changed by a romantic relationship that robs them of their strong independence. Hooray!
Mar 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, and the whole series. This edition contains the first two books, there are two more published, and a fifth is in progress. There are two strong female protagonists with very different personalities that are very enjoyable. This is smart fantasy.
Sep 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Debbie
Recommended to Valerie by: free
Shelves: math, fantasy-sf
I really enjoy the concept of Steerswomen. It drives the book and sets up strings of events that follow logically and impeccably.
Sep 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up, 2010
I stopped at 80 or so pages - it just wasn't holding my interest. ...more
Oct 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: via-deadtree, sf-f
Not the book for me. Not being able to bring myself to care about what was going on, plus some annoying authorial tics conspired to end the book early for me.
Rory O’Kane
May 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Rory by: Raymond Arnold
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cute Librarian
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The first two books, The Steerswoman and The Outskirter's Secret, of Rosemary Kirstein's phenomenal series.

An intellectual love letter to the scientific method and the power of communication in a unique fantasy world.
A lovely focus on the friendship of two middle aged women.
A romance that isn't just 'you look good, let's get married'.
The prose is simple but effective. It flows well. The dialogue is also pretty good, you can tell characters apart by it.

The series is not currently fin
Jae Lin
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing fantasy world building that up ends so many eurocentric dichotomies around civil/savage cultures and landscapes. Such phenomenal protagonists that win my heart fully over. Rowan and Bel are such amazing foils, and their friendship is so brilliant and charismatic.

There is quite a bit of violence throughout the stories, often with little consequence or weight, which felt jarring to me at times. And each book ends very abruptly, which isn't too my taste. Still, 5/5 such a brilliant universe
Emily VA
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Beach Vacation Read #2: One of two carefully selected proper paper books brought along to supplement my ereader and read on the plane. This one, snagged used through a bookswap site, had the misfortune to reek of smoke and my effort to remove the odor had met with minimal success. I had intended at the beginning to abandon it at the beach house — but it was so good, I passed it to my dad instead.

It is rare, rare, rare that I find a book that's lived up to its hype, but this one did, and then som
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
If you ask a Steerswoman (and some Steersmen) a question, any question, she will answer. If a Steerswoman asks you a question, any question, you must reply. A Steerswoman will speak only the truth to you (provided she knows the truth) and you must do the same for her. If you refuse to answer her question, you will be placed under the Steerswomen's Ban and no Steerswoman will answer your questions - ever. So for centuries, the Steerswomen - questioning, searching, investigating - have slowly lear ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is an omnibus edition of "The Steerswoman" and "The Outskirter's Secret."

Kirstein's 'Steerswoman' series had been highly recommended to me - and did not disappoint in the slightest. It's fun, well-crafted, well-characterized adventure with an original set-up and believable culture(s). Rowan is a Steerswoman. As the title might indicate, she is adept at nautical navigation, but the main goal of Steerswomen is to collect (and dissemintate) knowledge and information, write it down, and deliver
Jun 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've had this series for awhile, but had a hard time getting book 3 (ended up with a proof edition, but I'm reading this series anyway!).

This is really a great read. Seems like fantasy, epic type, but one can tell right off that it is also science fiction. (view spoiler)

I have a zillion things to do, but read this combo of book 1 & 2 instead. I love t
Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
wavering between 3-4 stars, the lush prose beats out the slow pacing.

on a far off world, Rosemary Kierstein has come up with an entirely novel version of honor. her main character, Rowan, is a steerswoman: one of a college of wandering scribes who gathers as much knowledge of the world as possible, and redistributes this knowledge freely to anyone. you see, if you ask a steerswoman a question, she must respond, and you are likewise bound to truthfully and fully answer her questions as well. lyi
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth (moonivy)
Jun 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fantasy/sci-fi readers.
Read 5/28-6/1/07.

The Steerswoman is the first book in a series of elegantly drawn fantasy/
science fiction novels about Rowan, a steerswoman. On Rowan's world, a
medieval culture reigns, where a select few are steerswomen - a combination
of historian, adventurer, law-giver, healer and teacher. Rowan's investigation
into the mysterious blue jewels that are scattered about the Inner Lands will
lead her into danger and conflict with the wizards that rule the land.

This is an excellent fantasy novel, gro
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Other books in the series

The Steerswoman (4 books)
  • The Steerswoman (The Steerswoman, #1)
  • The Outskirter's Secret (The Steerswoman, #2)
  • The Lost Steersman (The Steerswoman, #3)
  • The Language of Power (The Steerswoman, #4)

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
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