Review of ‘Compass Rose’ by Anna Burke.

I rarely read sci-fi and even less pirates’ stories but this year I decided to read a few books that throw me out of my comfort zone. I’m glad I’ve chosen this one. Anna Burke is a new promising author and ‘Compass Rose’ is her debut book. For this novel she received the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Sandra Moran scholarship, created to mentor young writers like Ms. Burke.

‘Compass Rose’ is set in a dystopian world in 2513 in which the sea levels on Earth have risen and land is either flooded or too polluted to live on. Humans live on sea stations mainly located in the North Atlantic Archipielago. Compass Rose is a navigator born with an extraordinary ability: she can always tell her exact location and get the best nautical routes to a destination. When her Admiral orders her to work alongside mercenary Captain Miranda Stillwater to defeat the pirates that threaten to rule the Atlantic, her world turns upside down. But even her exceptional navigational skills won’t prepare her for Miranda’s captivating persona and for her threatening crew.

This novel is written in first person from the point of view of Compass Rose except for a brief Captain’s log at the beginning of each section (East, South, West, North, Center).The world the author built is very imaginative in its unpleasant and threatening nature. The dangers come in the form of gigantic squids, murdering pirates or greedy politicians. The beauty of this book is that even in this imaginary world we can see humanity at its best and worst. Ms. Burke’s use of nautical metaphors is beautiful and poetic.

Compass Rose makes a well rounded main character with all her extraordinary abilities and her shortcomings. Ms. Burke isn’t afraid to depict her as an unwilling heroine stressing on her fears and her anxiety coping mechanisms (her mantra ‘North, south, east, west’ is an amusing example). The cast of secondary characters is presented with no rush so each one can be recognised for their own physical appearance and personalities. The author doesn’t sugarcoat their cruelty or ferocity which makes the story very credible.

The romance is too much on the side for my liking but I understand the logic around it. This is not a romance but a fast-paced adventure novel. Despite that they are not together much, the chemistry between Rose and Miranda is sizzling and believable.

Overall, a very good pirates’ adventure novel for fans of dystopian sci-fi. Great debut novel by a promising author. 4.5 stars.

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