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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Review of ‘Shadow hand’ by Sacchi Green.

This is book four of ‘The superheroine collection’ featuring different Ylva Publishing authors under the common theme of lesbian superheroines. There has been a couple of very good books in this series such as ‘Shattered’ by Lee Winter and ‘Chasing Stars’ by Alex K. Thorne.

Lieutenant Ashton receives the power to move objects with her hand by a goddess while deployed by the US Army somewhere on the Middle East desert. When her abilities are discovered, she is sent to a special division in Germany to research her powers as a potential weapon of war. Separated from her longtime lover Sargent Cleo Brown, she looks for ways to get together again and use her powers for a greater good.

Sacchi Green is a seasoned author of short stories but this is her debut novel which, in my opinion, wasn’t successful. I feel that her writing style is a bit distant and impersonal. For me, the book reads as a chronicle or a bird’s-eye view of series of events. As the main characters’ intimacy is described in a detached way, their scenes together feel devoid of emotion, too clinical. That really affected my connection with the characters and the story as a whole.

The plot seems a bit contrived and unrealistic even for the sci-fi world the author built. For example, Shadow Hand’s lack of secrecy about her powers and real identity doesn’t follow usual superhero behaviour. I also feel that the book ended rather abruptly, it would have been good to see how the relationship between both main characters evolve.

Overall, a good idea that fails on the execution. 2.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Rescue’ by Juliette Renard.

Virginia is a famous actress recovering from addiction and a partying lifestyle in an isolated cabin in the middle of a crude winter. When a puppy accidentally lands on her doorstep, a series of events trigger a meeting with reclusive but renowned author Sage Volland. Soon they develop a friendship promising much more if only their pasts wouldn’t get in their way.

This is a short novel (44,000 words) by debut author Juliette Renard. Both main characters Virginia and Sage are well rounded though their chemistry isn’t off the charts. For me, it feels a bit rushed. On the other hand, puppy dog Denzel steals the show as he’s a great facilitator of the mains’ relationship and feels very authentic.

My main issues with this novel are two. One is that the story pace doesn’t flow seamlessly, it drags at some points while at others feels rushed. My other problem is that some scenes feel a bit unrealistic. I give a small example to avoid spoilers, for instance, one character is beaten badly and a few hours later the face shows no marks. Some of the metaphors used felt a bit crude, but maybe that was the intention of the author, though I personally didn’t find the appeal when describing a romantic relationship. However, I think it’s an interesting story with a good mystery twist that will keep the reader turning pages.

Overall, a good debut romance with a bit of mystery on the side. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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