My favorite books take me places, and no travel is more convenient than the trip taken right from my comfy chair with a beverage at my side and a dog at my feet. When October’s weather turns spooky and inclement, what better time than to go swashbuckling with some pirates in a dystopian Earth circa 2513? Put some candy outside for the little ghouls and climb aboard Miranda’s Man O’War with debut novelist Anna Burke and navigator Compass Rose. You guys have a coastline to map.
Compass Rose was born “facing due north,” giving her a supernatural sense of direction. This asset proves invaluable to Admiral Comita of the Archipelago Fleet, who appropriates her and sends her on a secret spy mission to infiltrate the pirate Miranda’s ship because…well, intrigue and reasons and stuff. No one, of course, foresees Rose falling in love with Miranda, let alone her dalliance with Miranda’s first mate (except maybe Gentle Reader). This has enormous impact on Rose’s mission–if only she could decide whose side she’s on.
The best world builders know not to overwhelm the reader–start with broad strokes and fill in where necessary as befits either plot or character development. Burke has internalized that rule well, giving us just enough detail to understand the intrigue and plot turns without burdening our comprehension. That the world is Earth helps, but I have a feeling Burke would be equally at home in more unfamiliar terrain.
But even the most solidly constructed world is just setting without some good, meaty characters to populate it, and Burke comes up winners here as well. Compass Rose is a well-drawn, complex character often torn between oath and desire. Her navigational skills enable her to clearly see the route others should take, but she often misses her own emotional path and has to retrace her steps. Being in love with a mercurial pirate doesn’t help. Miranda is also a strong character, full of bluster and decision and command, but vulnerable only to Rose. And a certain fellow sea-captain.
Compass Rose is a great seafaring saga full of rich characters, with an engaging plot that will leave you ready for the sequel. And that’s no bilge water.
© 2018 Jerry L. Wheeler