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The Steerswoman

(The Steerswoman #1)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  2,423 ratings  ·  302 reviews
The Steerswoman is the first novel in the Steerswoman series. Steerswomen, and a very few Steersmen, are members of an order dedicated to discovering and disseminating knowledge. Although they are foremost navigators of the high seas, Steerswomen are also explorers and cartographers upon land as well as sea. With one exception, they are pledged to always answer any questio ...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published August 13th 1989 by Del Rey Books
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Nathan Popham The best that I can remember, no, but later books in the series do have some.

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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
If you don't end up with a crush on the sidekick, you're not a lesbian. ...more
How have I never heard of this series until now? I think the answer is that the mainstream speculative fiction community may not have been ready in 1989 for an extremely competent, well-educated, ethically driven woman to turn up and get shit done without even the slightest suggestion ever arising that she shouldn't be expected to do just that. And are they ready now? Ample evidence suggests perhaps still not, which is too bad for all of us. The least I can do to counteract this unfortunate fact ...more
Allison Hurd
May 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fem-author, scifi
This has been heavily recommended by members of my book club, so I'm glad I finally got to it and even more glad that it was pretty dang great. WHAT IF academics were the most revered people on the planet, and knowledge was powerful and dangerous?

CONTENT WARNING: (view spoiler)

Things to love:

-The trope swap. So this is both epic fantasy and scifi and I am HERE for that.

-The premise. Who among us hasn't thought "it would be so diff
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
I really liked this book, and I don't know that I can give a really clear definition of why. It's not an intensely gripping read, but it's definitely one I turn over in my mind and consider when I'm doing other things. I'm really interested in the world Kirstein has created -- okay no, not the world so much as the character of a Steerswoman (or man). Refreshing, by the way, that the Steersmen are sometimes just called Steerswomen as well because there are so few of them.

The idea behind a Steersw
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 it to Archives. As a valuable source of information, Steerswomen are greatly ...more
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wotf, want-wotf
Hard to believe that this was published in 1989. Seems lazy to say that this story has great characters that are likeable and complex. That the world building is incredibly detailed yet easy to read. All the positive book review clichés that you can imagine are suitable for this novel that often feels like science fiction masquerading as fantasy. A story that has wizards and dragons yet somehow manages not to cross the line into what I consider the fantastical.

I loved the idea of Steerswomen. P
Jessica Mae Stover
It is my intention that you read this series (as I write this, I'm on book four). That The Steerswoman series has flown under the radar for decades throughout its rollout, and yet is better than most fantasy published, is revealing, and a confirmation of the unjust bias and lack of support that too many authors face. We can argue to what degree, but it is.

I'm planning to write more about this series if/when I have the chance, and will review the first book alongside the second here, which will
Aug 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
This book was excellent. Hands-down the best thing I've read in a long time. An original, interesting plot, a huge mystery, and excellent characters. Character building, character interactions, just...everything. Rowan and Bel are both intelligent, capable women, and they plunge into the mystery of the "jewels" with courage, intelligence, and logic rather than the usual sword-swinging approach. Rowan is ferociously smart and well-educated, and it is so, so wonderful to see that not just told but ...more
(As is my wont with series, this is essentially a review of all the books, four to date.)

Rowan is a Steerswoman, one of an order of people (mostly women) who are dedicated to seeking, sharing, and storing information. She has become interested in some mysterious jewels and joins up with Bel, a warrior woman from the land's outskirts, to search for their origin, which proves to be tied up with the powerful, enigmatic wizards. Suddenly, Rowan and Bel are involved in something much bigger than they
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was very interesting. I've always said that sci-fi and fantasy are a spectrum, rather than different genres. I've read hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi. I've read fantasy disguised as sci-fi (Star Wars with its space wizards), sci-fi disguised as fantasy (Pern with its genetically engineer dragons), and works that are squarely in the middle (Dune).

But this is the first book I've read that's not only sci-fi, but diamond-hard sci-fi, and so thoroughly disguised as a fantasy story it took me half t
Rachel Neumeier
Jun 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The characters: Well-drawn. Rowan, Bel, and Willam are all quite appealing in their different ways. Rowan’s observation skills and general perceptiveness are beautifully handled throughout, and believable, none of that too-good-to-be-true Sherlock Holmes magic. The whole concept of the steerswomen was delightful, and that, too, was handled in a believable way – pretty tricky for such an idealized lifestyle. I loved the bit where all the steerswomen (and steersmen) gave us some insight about how ...more
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Steerswoman is the first book of a series, focusing on the explorations of a steerswoman. The steerswomen seek after knowledge wherever they go: learning about local customs, drawing maps, and passing on their knowledge. If a steerswoman asks you a question, you must answer; if you do not, they will place you under a ban, and no steerswoman will ever answer your questions again. Rowan has been a steerswoman long enough that it's baked into her through and through, and she loves her work -- e ...more
Dec 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-tbr, fantasy
This was a solid 4 star read until the last few chapters, which definitely kicked my rating up to the full 5 stars.

I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and the characters in this novel. (view spoiler)

The plot was very well done, with good pacing that moved smoothly and never felt too hurried. And Kirstein masterfully revealed more a
Nov 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Initially I was going to give this 3/5. It was very slow to start, hadn't quite caught my attention by 50% and I didn't love the style. I knew there was going to be some sort of twist though, so I kept reading. By the end, what revelations we had been given was enough for me to give it a 3.5/5, but not quite enough for me to round up, hence the final rating not changing. I'm kinda curious to see where this goes, but considering my backlog it'll be a long while before book two pops up I feel. ...more
Satya Prateek
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic book. It's not epic fantasy in any way - there are no prophesies or end of the world scenarios. What it is though is a compelling mystery/adventure of a scholar and her travelling companion. Rowan the protagonist is smart, honorable, a rationalist and gets some wonderful character development that explains how she became a steerswoman. The plot itself wraps up nicely while still leaving a lot of mysteries to explore in the future books. ...more
Feb 27, 2014 rated it liked it
I read this because it was recommended, by an author I respect, as one of the classics of fantasy writing. Ugh. Blessedly short at 264 pages.

I think this book is what happens when an author is overly concerned with character development. The reader learns every detail of the personalities of the main characters, and meanwhile: "Will something please happen?" Plot movement? - not so much.

Worldbuilding?- not so much. The same lead character who (in an age with medieval technology) is working out t
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing

This was such an enjoyable read. Rowan, the main character, is entertaining, engaging, and believable. She is the Steerswoman of the title, and her curiosity is piqued when she encounters blue jewels unlike any others she has come across in a variety of places. She wonders where they came from, and how the came to be so scattered across the world. She can't quite work it out, but as she investigates she realises that someone really doesn't want her to know.

And knowledge, the gaining and the shar

Anna Livingston
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the heck out of this book. It's solidly written, and a swords-and-(sort of ...) sorcery book with two intelligent female protagonists teaming up to investigate a mystery? Sign me up, please. Rowan's logical mind and Bel's skills as a warrior complement each other perfectly, and what could have been an ordinary relationship in which the educated woman continually (and tediously) imparts wisdom to the barbarian is in fact a relationship of equals, with the two women learning from each ot ...more
Sep 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf
So this was pretty awesome.
Steerswomen, apparently, are kind of like traveling librarians. They know about all kinds of things (especially maps, which I guess is where the steering comes in).

They are sworn to answer truthfully any question they are asked, EXCEPT that you also have to answer their questions! And if you refuse, NO STEERSWOMAN WILL EVER ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS AGAIN.

Oh, and also there are wizards, who(we know, but the people in the book don't) are not really magical people but they j
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: a-own-it, fantasy
I don't understand all the great reviews this book has. I found it to be really slow and boring. Plus the whole concept of a steerswoman makes no sense logically. Their deal is that they will answer any question they know the answer to, but if they catch you lying they will blacklist you and no steerswoman will ever answer a question for them again. Which is ridiculous - how is that going to be enforced? All a person would have to do is just get a friend to ask for you, assuming the next steersw ...more
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: space
This entire book is one long passage of disbelief, or perhaps rather a passage of ignorance. In either case, the facts become obvious to the reader in short order, and we have to wade through a tedious travelogue while waiting for the protagonist to figure it out. ...more
Tim S
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was really intriguing. A society of female scientists in a fantasy setting is a brilliant premise, and the writing was brisk and straightforward. Elements of it had a very 'sword and sorcery' feel to it, but the ending promised a more epic scope going forward. I definitely want to check out the other books in this series. ...more
I'm actually reading The Steerswoman's Road, which contains both this and The Outskirter's Secret, but dammit, I'm getting Goodreads to count it as the two books it rightly is. ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sff
The one where Rowan finds a gem, takes a journey, meets some wizards, and begins to discover that she may be wrong in thinking she lives in a fantasy universe.

The first scene is very slow; I spent the entire scene quite certain that I'd be tossing the book when I'd read my fifty pages. But once things start moving, they move along at a pace that feels right, and the way the story captures what it feels like to learn -- to put together partial information and begin to build on it -- is thrilling
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The Steerswoman is an interesting novel with a fantasy feel, but some hints that it might be more of a science fiction universe — especially if you see the original cover of the second book. In this book, the hints are subtle but do begin to build up, and even if you jump ahead in your guesses, it’s strangely satisfying to watch the eponymous steerswoman, Rowan, get stuck into the problem.

That’s probably starting at the wrong end, so here’s the intro: The Steerswoman is a fascinating novel which
Mike Finn
I love it when you pick up a book with neutral expectations and within a single chapter, find yourself looking for extra reading time in the day so that you can stay in the flow of the story.

"The Steerswoman" gave that to me on the morning I opened it. It was an intriguing blend of the familiar (sword and sorcery setting with a hint of a high tech past, a search for a kind of gem that may not be a gem, a coaching inn filled with pilgrims, red-coated soldiers in service to a mage and a band of b
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very satisfying mix of science fiction and fantasy. STRONG female characters who are exceptionally capable are a real plus. Quick easy read, a page turner. Just what is needed in these trying days in which the actual real news is a truly frightening horror show - an escapist reprieve.
Mar 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
What a delightful, comforting little book! :D

Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was something of a surprise as I have had this book in my shelves for ages; if I knew how good it was I would have read it much sooner! Rowan, our main protagonist, is a steerswoman, which is something like a Druid. She travels the world collecting and passing on knowledge, freely answering any question about anything as long as she can ask questions back. Along in her travels, she finds a strange jewel and tries to find out more about it; this is where the book begins. The world is quasife ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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The Steerswoman (4 books)
  • The Outskirter's Secret (The Steerswoman, #2)
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