Compass Rose by Anna Burke

This is a review for the Compass Rose Series. The second book is not stand alone so the series gets a review.

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?


Sea Wolfe by Anna Burke is the swashbuckling second book in The Compass Rose series. It’s a thrilling, action packed sequel set in a dystopian world destroyed by mankind’s excesses.

The book begins months after the climax of Compass Rose. Rose is struggling to come to terms with the result of her actions which decimated pirate Ching Shih’s fleet during a battle in the Gulf of Mexico. In her eyes, she’s committed genocide. Little does she know her lover, Miranda Stillwater, resents her actions as well. Miranda silently grieves for Shih who rescued her from certain death after she had committed the heinous act of mutiny.

As Rose and Miranda struggle to find equal footing in their relationship, they’re forced to flee their ship, the Man O’ War. A handful of loyal crew members accompany them on a journey that takes them into dangerous, uncharted territory. They stumble upon a civilization that represents hope for the planet, but it may come at their demise.

Even more threatening, Rose comes face to face with truths about her past and her place in the world. It’s at this point she realizes the only person who can come to her rescue is Compass Rose herself.

The Characters of Compass Rose

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 of Compass Rose

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.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

Compass Rose – 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.

Sea Wolf – First things first – Sea Wolf is a true sequel. You need to read Compass Rose to fully enjoy it, and that’s no hardship. Compass Rose is amazing.

Just like the first book in the series, Rose and Miranda’s relationship is complex and ever evolving. Now they’re an established couple, but the honeymoon is over. Miranda shows Rose parts of herself that are ugly and unscrupulous forcing Rose to stand up for herself at the expense of what they share. I was aghast at this turn of events and hated Burke with a passion I didn’t know I had. But as the story continues, it becomes clear the only chance Rose and Miranda have at happiness is if they become equals. Miranda has to hit rock bottom, and Rose has to claim her power. (I’m no longer filled with rage.)

The writing is sheer perfection. In keeping with the first book in the series, the world building in Sea Wolf is fantastic. I could envision the most minute detail Burke brings into focus, and the prose engaged all my senses for a truly immersive reading experience. There’s surprise after surprise which amps up the tension from start to finish. And true to form, Burke connects the current damage greed and waste are levying on the earth with the dystopian world of 2514. As Rose reflects on how the flooded earth became such a dangerous place to endure, Miranda points out, “…our fucking ancestors. They evolved in a world perfectly calibrated for their survival, and they broke it.”

The Cons

There were absolutely no cons about either book.

Favourites for Compass Rose

victorias favourite booksJeannie's Favourite BooksMichelle's Favourite Booksaprils favourite books

taras favourite lesbian books





The Conclusion

Compass Rose – 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!

Sea Wolf – All you Compass Rose fans, it’s here – the sequel we’ve been waiting for. I’m primarily a romance reader so I sometimes forget other genres can make me feel the same depth of emotion and capture my imagination so thoroughly. The physical and emotional struggles Rose and Miranda withstand cross genres and completely resonate with me. The angst is strong with this novel and, I was 100% there for it. The action sequences are harrowing and seven kinds of fun. I can’t recommend Sea Wolf enough. Tick-tock Ms. Burke, when are we getting book three?

Excerpt from Compass Rose by Anna Burke

“Compass Rose.”

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.

Excerpt from Sea Wolfe by Anna Burke

As I rounded yet another corner in the increasing black, a squid made a dive for my hand. My fist closed instinctively. The beak scraped across the back of my knuckles, and I curled my body in on itself as I fumbled for my knife. It wasn’t a large squid. Its body looked bluish, though it was hard to tell, and lights pulsed down its mantle as it retreated a few feet to survey me.

Fucker, I thought at it, hoping it was alone and not part of a pack. Luck like that, however, didn’t come my way often, and so I inched backward until the wall met my spine.

The second squid appeared as I adjusted the air tank on my back. It hovered behind the first, appraising me with wide round eyes. I bared my teeth around my mask. This would not be how I died.

Lights pulsed down their sides. The shifting colors suggested language, nuance, an intelligence determined to find its way into the soft meat of my body. I edged along the wall with my knife hand ready.

The third squid hit me from below. I felt tentacles close around my leg as the beak tested the resiliency of my pants, rearranging my hamstring muscle in the process. My knife sank into its head, and the skin parted with a rubbery ease I did not have time to contemplate as the other members of its pack made their moves. One went for my knife arm.

The other went for my face.

I felt the give of my mask as its powerful body ripped the tubing from my mouth. Spluttering, I bit into the tentacle and screamed in a stream of bubbles as its beak raked down my cheek, sending my blood into the water along with a cloud of ink. The squid on my leg released me—hopefully to die—and I scrabbled at the squid around my head and neck with my other hand. Slippery flesh slid against my fingers. My lungs ached. I needed air, and the squid on my knife arm was twisting my bicep against my humerus with vicious intent. The tentacle in my mouth writhed as it tried to get away. I bit down harder. If I let go, I would try to breathe, and water would flood my lungs as it had flooded my ship.

The squid doing its best to remove my bicep released me without warning. In relief I dropped my knife, then cursed—freeing the other squid from my teeth—and lunged after it. I kicked toward the bottom of the hall with my lungs crackling and sparks dotting the edges of my vision before I realized my head, too, was free, and jammed the breathing apparatus back between my teeth. That first breath of air blinded me. Oxygen raced through my veins as I forgot about my attackers. When I recalled my predicament several breaths later, closing my hands around the hilt of my knife, I found myself in a fog of ink.

Neptune, no.

Get Compass Rose Online

When you use the links in this review and buy within 24 hours of clicking then we get a small commission that helps us run the site and it costs you nothing extra







Get Sea Wolf Online

When you use the links in this review and buy within 24 hours of clicking then we get a small commission that helps us run the site and it costs you nothing extra










The Compass Rose Series

Compass Rose

Sea Wolfe


Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number for Compass Rose: 9781612941196
  • ISBN number for Sea Wolf: 9781612942018
  • Publisher: Bywater Books
  • Anna Burke Online

If you enjoyed Compass Rose by Anna Burke then you should also look at

Survival Instincts by May Dawney







If you enjoyed Sea Wolfe by Anna Burke then you should also look at

The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall







Note: I received a free review copy of Sea Wolfe by Anna Burke. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site