Compass Rose by Anna Burke

(3 customer reviews)


In the year 2513, the only thing higher than the seas is what’s at stake for those who sail them.


For Compass Rose, a secret mission aboard a mercenary ship brings an unexpected conflagration of adventure, danger, and romance.

Rose was born facing due north, with an inherent perception of cardinal points flowing through her veins. Her uncanny sense of direction earns her a coveted place among the Archipelago Fleet elite, but it also attracts the attention of Admiral Comita, who sends her on a secret mission deep into pirate territory. Accompanied by a ragtag crew of mercenaries and under the command of Miranda, a captain as alluring as she is bloodthirsty, Rose discovers the hard way that even the best sense of direction won’t be enough to keep her alive if she can’t learn to navigate something far more dangerous than the turbulent seas. Aboard the mercenary ship, Man o’ War, Rose learns quickly that trusting the wrong person can get you killed—and Miranda’s crew have no intention of making things easy for her—especially the Captain’s trusted first mate, Orca, who is as stubborn as she is brutal.

This swashbuckling 26th-century adventure novel is smart, colorful and quirky, yet it manages to deliver a healthy dose of heart, humor, and humility on every single page.

Awards and Honors

2019 Golden Crown Literary Society, Short List, Ann Bannon Award

2019 Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, Short List, Debut Novel Category

2019 Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, Short List, Science-Fiction/Fantasy Category

“A sparkling, impossible-to-put-down addition to the lesbian pirate genre, complete with underwater peril, brutal sailors, and a sexy but dangerous pirate named Miranda.” —CATHERINE FRIEND, author of A Pirate’s Heart and Spark

“Damn, Anna Burke captures the allure of the alpha-like no one else! So powerful. So tormented. I’m still swooning.” —KARELIA STETZ-WATERS, author of Worth the Wait

“I found the writing intriguing, the tone and energy were different to the standard lesfic novel, and I don’t remember reading anything quite like this in the sci-fi fantasy genre; definitely a new voice and a unique style.” —Curve Magazine

“Compass Rose is a great seafaring saga full of rich characters, with an engaging plot that will leave you ready for the sequel.” —JERRY WHEELER, Out in Print

“Anna Burke has created a real gem with Compass Rose, one that fans of sci-fi, and specifically climate fiction, should not miss.” —Gay Sonoma

“The world building was excellent with huge attention to detail, the characters are well drawn and varied, the descriptions vivid and colourful and the action was extremely fast-paced and multi-faceted, it felt like reading an action sci-fi movie—and what a wonderful movie it would make.” —VELVET LOUNGER, The Lesbian Reading Room

“Not only is Anna Burke in possession of a fine gift for writing in general but also add to that her sensitivity to writing fantasy fiction in which the main characters are women.’ —GRADY HARP, San Francisco Review of Books

“[Burke] weaves in beautiful prose atop a complicated plot and creative futuristic world. Really, this writing was captivating and rich in details.” —KD RYE, The Lesbian 52

“Anna Burke has created a real gem with Compass Rose, one that fans of SciFi, and specifically climate fiction, should not miss. That this is Burke’s first book is also kind of incredible, because her talent is evident on every page. This is one author to watch since she’s sure to delight us with more weird and wonderful stories for years to come.” —TARA SCOTT, Lambda Literary Review

“It is hard to believe that this is a first novel in that the prose is excellent throughout and the idea for the plot is quite brilliant.” —AMOS LASSEN, Amos Lassen Reviews

“The ability to tell a plausible story—set in a futuristic world of high adventure and intrigue—and still successfully shock the reader is a  true testament to Burke’s writing skills.” —CARLEEN SPRY, Frivolous Views

“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.” —GABY MAURINO, Lez Review Books

“If I was going to limit myself to one new book this year, Compass Rose would be that book.” —VICTORIA THOMAS, The Lesbian Review

ANNA BURKE graduated from Smith College with degrees in English Literature and Studio Art. She was the inaugural recipient of the Sandra Moran Scholarship for the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Writing Academy and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College. She wrote Compass Rose, her debut novel while living on a small island in the West Indies. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her wife and their two dogs. You can learn more about her at


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3 reviews for Compass Rose by Anna Burke

  1. Holly Williams

    I loved this book so much! It was so well written and impossible to put down! Can’t wait for more to come from this extremely talented author!

  2. Bugs

    After a captivating read of Anna Burke’s latest novel, “Thorn,” obviously I HAD to read her debut work, “Compass Rose.” The critics were right. By gosh, what a fantastic, thrilling, captivating ride indeed! This swashbuckling action-adventure where I got to read about pirates, mercs, and the military all converging in the high seas (not to mention monsters!), marking their territories and warring for more was exceptionally depicted with persistently vivid visualisations of each and every situation, environment, surroundings, all described with such realism that I was transported to every scene that Burke created, like I was there meself, observing every action and sequence….virtually!

    Burke’s “Compass Rose,” at times, was reminiscent of Jules Verne’s classic sea voyage adventure literature, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea,” and at times reminded me of “The Pirates of the Carribean,” for me. Except, Burke’s voyage was infinitely better for me, imho, because of many factors, namely, all the badarse, kick-arse leading characters were WOMEN! Bloody hell YES! Having expressed just how much I loved Burke’s literary, lyrical writing style in “Thorn,” Burke continued to impress me to no end with her brilliant knack for creating a glorious sense of music in her richly descriptive, heart-tugging words in every scenario and dialogue/monologue that somehow transformed into lyrical notes in me head as I read on!

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this refreshing method that Burke employed in telling her story via using the cardinal directions of the compass. Instead of the usual, standard way that we’re all familiar with – North, South, East West – Burke turned it around and use it via the Oriental way (Chinese, if I’m not mistaken!) – East, South, West, North. I suspected as such when Burke titled the 1st segment, “East.” That was when I went back to the Table of Contents (no, I didn’t pay attention to it previously because I was too eager to start reading the story, so there!) to confirm me suspicions…voila! Bull’s eye!

    The fact that Burke structured her storytelling using the Oriental-inspired cardinal directions – yes, every segment was presented with each subsequent cardinal point. AND, most evidently, the last point – Centre. I won’t bore you with why the Chinese start off naming the points with East (instead of North) but having previously read about the Chinese culture, traditions, philosophy and beliefs, i.e. “feng shui” way of life, I can tell you that by the end of the book, as the story was depicted by each cardinal point ever so purposefully, I discovered that the symbolism of each cardinal direction, to the point of allegorical, aspects of the compass rose in Burke’s Oriental-inspired storytelling of Rose’s entire journey of self-discovery, self-reflection, self-actualisation, really, finally reaching her “centre”, the “within,” truly deepened the level of resonance in me psyche. To me, the entire architecture of the story and its essence were representative of the book’s title – Compass Rose. A journey through meticulous navigation towards its ultimate goal. A voyage towards the Self. Spellbinding metaphor, innit? Me reckons so!

    But obviously, this is only me own interpretation of Burke’s intent, speculative or otherwise. I’m sure it’s different for everyone else. Christ, there might not even be anything to explore at all from Burke’s view and I was just seeing what me mind’s eye was conjecturing! So, there you go. That’s the beauty of art in the form of fiction writing, innit? Interpretative. Then again, if you’re reading it like an everyday swashbuckling action/adventure (with a dash of romance to boot!) story, you’ll also experience every aesthetic nuance of Burke’s superb storytelling.

    *Oh, don”t mind me bollocks! Carry on….*

    “Compass Rose” is, for me, prolly one of the few stories where I found meself totally invested and liking every single character portrayed in it. I mean, all of them. I was surprised with the realisation! The chemistry that Burke so deftly created between the characters captivated me from the start, protagonists and antagonists, alike! Before I talk about the two MCs – Rose and Miranda – first off, Rose and Harper, her best mate. I could feel their deep and true friendship in their body language alone. True sisterhood which played out even more evidently toward the end. And then there was this raw energy brewing between Rose and her nemesis, Orca. Whoa! Their pure hatred toward each other as the story progressed, inflamed with undeniably brutal honesty likened to animalistic behaviour when these two were in the same room, was intoxicating! At one point, I was like, “Oh, snog her already!” I loved their relationship because it was refreshing, and their growth with each other was utterly compelling as it was grounded with accurate characterisation. Their behaviour and attitude toward each other in the entire journey was authentically portrayed. You’ll have to read it to experience their relationship. It was superb!

    In contrast, Rose’s relationship with Kraken was utterly fun and thrilling, whilst with Crow’s Eyes, it was brief but meaningful. Burke brilliantly created this bunch of rag-tag outcast that through extraordinary circumstances and growth became a true camaraderie of individuals. It was simply captivating to explore their adventures, drama, action, thrills together! Needless to say, I was thoroughly entertained!

    Then we have Rose and Miranda – the KEY pairing of the story. Wow! Talk about electrifying chemistry as soon as these two laid eyes on each other! And there was NO physical intimacy involved at all! Goes to show that words and expressions, if manipulated and moulded with multi-dimensional depth can result in pure sizzle! Well done, Burke!

    Speaking of Miranda, I LOVED her! I loved her mystery, her quiet persona that hid the danger within, I loved her strength, her vulnerability, her resolve. The flame of passion burning beneath her hard shell was ever so subtly played out from Burke’s heedful depiction of her demeanour and actions. You feel it. If there’s one thing I can say about Miranda’s role in this story, is that I wish Burke had expanded more on her character, presence and her growth, especially her POV. There were so many things happening to her within the frameset of the voyage that was “off-screen,” so to speak. I was so enthralled by her character, thanks to Burke’s deeply affecting portrayal of this deeply misunderstood soul, even with the slight insufficiency (for me, at least, since I absolutely couldn’t get enough of Miranda!). Nevertheless, the slow-burn pace of Miranda and Rose’s journey toward each other was flawlessly portrayed, it was authentic, grounded with reality and in-sync with their polar opposite characters and personalities.

    As mentioned, Burke’s writing was truly literary in prose. How she presented her words were poetic at times but always “sounded” lyrical to me. Oh, don’t know if it’s Burke’s theme, but after reading both books, I have a sense that Burke likes to inject some chorus-like expressions. This time, it was Rose’s persistent mantra that she repeated at times of personal, spiritual need, “North east south west.” It was hypnotic. It allowed me to actually get into Rose’s psyche in those moments as she was navigating (pun intended) her way through the quagmire of her feelings, emotions, sense of loyalty, her compass, her overall state of mind when it came to coming face-to-face with the harsh reality of her life journey and the ultimate epiphany of where her “true north” was – at the centre and within it – and what it truly meant to her.

    I have to also comment on the action sequences. The massive one that occurred in the final act was almost like an homage to Jules Verne’s classic. I was on the edge of me seat throughout the entire sequence which Burke nailed it with precision. Burke’s style of writing action wasn’t pure mechanical adrenaline-type as she would inject the emotional aspect of the characters involved, making the action sequence personable, smoothing out the usual sharp edges that accompany the staccato of the action choreography. And then there was also another attack in an action sequence that reminded me of the movie, “Sphere.” You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the movie when you read the sequence. Truly fantastic piece of action-writing from Burke!

    And then there was the politics. Well, when wars happen, or whenever there’s a big organisation with different levels of power and authority, there’s always politics, innit? Burke spared no efforts in describing in detail how politics played a strategic, cold and calculated role in how Rose’s superior Admiral Comita, the other Admirals within the fleet and the Council manoeuvred and manipulated circumstances in order to accomplish their own missions to win the war. It was fascinating and compelling (yes, I love reading about the art of war!) to discover how everything played out vs. Rose’s own personal viewpoints. The whole sequence depicted was like a mixture of “Star Wars,” “Matrix Revolutions” and “Game of Thrones,” for me! Brilliantly formulated, imo! Wish it were longer, although, beggars can’t be choosers, eh?

    All in all, I must say, ALL the critics have been precisely accurate about just how wonderful “Compass Rose” was! I’m throwing me vote in to acclaim that “Compass Rose” was one of the best written, soul-enriching pieces of a swashbuckling, dystopic, sci-fi, sea voyage adventure I’ve read! One BIG plus? Lesbian Fiction. ‘Nuff said. And, Anna Burke is one phenomenal lesfic author, a writer in general, really, to watch. Her literary artistry is to be celebrated in not just lesbian fiction but in mainstream fiction, as well. I think we’re lucky to have her contributing to lesbian fiction, tbh. Thank you, Bywater Books! Here’s hoping she’ll gift us with more of her prodigious work in years to come! I, myself, will be waiting in anticipation to experience all of her future work.

    If you weren’t aware of me view about this book, let me be clear: “Compass Rose” is DEFINITELY A MUST-READ for ALL fiction readers who love action, adventure, or aesthetically beautiful literature. A true tour de force debut novel from a brilliant new author, if you ask me.

    Thank you, Ms. Burke, for your mesmerising story that has become one of me favourites which I will always cherish!

  3. Julie Hall

    I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down and was awake until 3am reading it. I haven’t read any pirate adventure before and just loved how Rose found her strength and bravery both physically and emotionally with Miranda. Can’t wait for the next book

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