Compass Rose by Anna Burke is a fast-paced pirate tale set in the dystopian future of 2513. It challenges the meaning of loyalty and takes to heart the saying, “To thine own self be true”. It was an absolutely riveting read. The book demanded my attention. As I read scene after scene it became clear that I was powerless to put it down. I still catch my thoughts meandering back to this story and I can’t wait to sit down with it for the second time to savor the experience of reading it all over again.
As the result of man’s selfish abuse of earth’s resources, the seas have risen, and the planet has become covered in water. Life is lead on large man-made mega-ships and colonies that are under the command of the Archipelago Fleet.
Rose was born with the uncanny ability to identify cardinal points, hence the name Compass Rose. Under pressure, she can even pinpoint longitudinal and latitudinal locations without the use of modern navigation systems while submerged deep below the ocean’s surface. This gift earns her a position as a junior navigator among the Archipelago Fleet. It also attracts the attention of Admiral Comita. The Admiral sends Rose on a secret mission deep into pirate territory for an unknown purpose. She will serve as navigator for one of the most notorious mercenaries on the ocean.
Miranda, captain of the Man O’ War, is a legend of the high seas. She is as bloodthirsty as she is captivating. When Rose joins her ragtag crew and pledges her loyalty to this fierce captain she realizes that her best sense of direction may not be enough to keep her alive. Navigating life on the Man O’ War is more dangerous than the unforgiving seas and she quickly learns that trusting the wrong person might get her killed.
Rose has sworn loyalty to Admiral Comita of the Archipelago Fleet, but will her growing desire for Miranda force her to switch loyalties at the cost of everything she has come to know about herself and her place in the world?
Rose is a wonderfully complex character. I’m always drawn to protagonists who are at odds with the world they inhabit. Rose is not a pureblood Archipelago citizen. She was born a drifter on one of the many tubs bobbing around the Archipelago Ships. She never knew her father, but it is believed that she inherited his gift for navigation. She never completely fits in on the premiere fleet ship, the North Star. She puts up with daily harassment and often physical abuse because she knows her gift for navigation will someday land her a job as second in command on one of the fleet’s ships. Putting duty first, she agrees to embark on Admiral Comita’s mission. When she becomes a crewmember on the Man O’ War she is equally out of her element. Dressed in her fleet uniform, looking well fed and clean cut, she is an easy target for the treacherous soldiers of fortune. Here, the physical abuse becomes normalized and the mercenaries’ disdain for her is obvious. Again, she is out of her element. Watching her grow, watching her become her own person, and watching her become a woman who trusts her own efficacy, made me pump my fist in the air and say, “You go girl!”
Miranda is, well, everything I could want in a main character. She is charismatic, mysterious, and equally as multifaceted as Rose. Miranda is not what she appears to be at first look. As Rose discovers, Miranda has a very complicated past. Throughout the story, Burke reveals more and more details about the enigmatic mercenary and in Miranda’s history the only constant has been loyalty. She did not become captain of the Man O’ War as the result of hard work. In Miranda’s world, everything comes at a price that is usually meted out through bloodshed or shrewd manipulation. She will just as easily whip a sailor for insubordination as fight to the death to protect her crew and her ship. Miranda is the picture of courage under fire. She is courageous and never wavers in her pursuit of her ultimate goal. Rose has to work hard to win Miranda’s trust and even harder to win her heart.
The Writing Style
Burke has created an amazing and vibrant world in Compass Rose. Every detail she has written is a fine thread in a vivid tapestry that makes this dystopian tale unlike anything I have ever read. She sets up a reality in which the oceans are covered in dead zones where heavy levels of hydrogen sulfide make the air unbreathable. Toxic algae blooms litter the seas and are known to spontaneously combust and destroy everything in their range. The ocean is filled with deadly swarms of jellyfish and giant octopuses. Not only is the natural environment teeming with danger, but the man-made world of submersible super ships and patched together pirate ships are equally as menacing. Food is scarce and energy sources are equally as scant so there is no end to the lengths that man will go to acquire them. In fashioning this harsh world, Burke has set the stage for a spectacular struggle for control over the earth’s oceans.
The plot moves at a good clip, gaining a visceral sense of urgency as the stakes grow higher and danger seems to loom larger. Burke has constructed a story where once one obstacle is surmounted another even more perilous hurdle presents itself. There’s not one wasted word in this story. The fact that Rose doesn’t know whether to trust Admiral Comita or Miranda just heightens the element of danger.
Burke created a cast of supporting characters that are just as engaging as the main characters. The mercenaries on Miranda’s ship each have their own dubious charms. They are a scurvy lot! They are all leery of Rose’s presence on the ship and she has to earn their respect. Miranda’s first mate, Orca is tasked with protecting Rose, yet her constant abuse towards Rose made me wonder if Rose would actually survive her time on the Man O’ War. These side characters are fascinating, and Burke wrote them to be just as layered and complicated as Rose and Miranda. This was one of many factors that kept me up all night reading.
There were absolutely no cons about this book.
I honestly can’t say enough good things about this novel. It captured my imagination in a way that I’ve never experienced. I was completely wrapped up in the world of this book to the point that I felt like I was there, in the midst of the story. I felt like Rose’s struggle was mine. Now, I am completely convinced that in a previous life I was a pirate sailing the high seas from one adventure to another. Of course, I would have been a pirate like Miranda, not like a drunken Johnny Depp wearing too much eyeliner. Head on down to the Amazon link below and purchase this book. If I was going to limit myself to one new book this year, Compass Rose would be that book. Enjoy!
Excerpt from Compass Rose by Anna Burke
The voice cut into my panic. I turned, briefly noticing the long table covered with maps before I saw the woman leaning against the end of it. Her toned, bared arms were crossed over her chest and a thick, dark braid hung over one shoulder, gleaming warmly in the firelight.
My mouth went a little drier. I knew her eyes were blue before I met them, and the sudden chill that shook my body had nothing to do with my lengthy bout of sea sickness.
“Welcome aboard,” she said.
I didn’t need an introduction. This was Miranda. I could tell by the reverent looks on the faces of Orca and Kraken, and by the dangerous heat that radiated from the woman like the light from the lamps above her.
She nodded at Orca, who undid my wrists with significantly more courtesy than she’d previously shown me. I rubbed the mark where the cord had cut into my skin and tried to calm my rapid heartbeat as I stole another glance at the mercenary captain. She couldn’t have been that much older than me, mid-twenties maybe, and I thought twenty-five was pushing it.
Blue eyes met mine with all the unexpected force of a rogue wave. My breath caught, and for a split second I was back on the parley vessel, plunging down into the trough of a passing swell with the ocean opening beneath me.
North, east, south, west. I clung to my cardinal points and tried not to drown.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781612941196
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Anna Burke Online
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