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Compass and Blade


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Book Review

Mira’s mother gave her the ability to swim the frigid ocean waters and never grow cold. But years after her mom’s death, Mira discovered that she was also left another gift, hidden deep at sea.

Plot Summary

The residents of the remote isle of Rosevear aren’t what you’d call good neighbors. In fact, they use beacon lights to lure unsuspecting ships into their rocky coasts, then paddle out to plunder the stranded vessels. No wonder many of their neighbors have a variety of harsher names for those island residents.

The council watch on nearby Ennor island calls them “wreckers.” And those police-like watch members vow to bring criminals like them to justice.

Of course, the wreckers don’t think of themselves as thieves and villains. Rather, they see themselves as survivors. After all, they have to do something to help the meager islanders hold out through terrible storms and frigid winters.

That’s not to say that all of the wreckers are immune to the suffering of innocents. It’s quite the opposite, in fact, for 18-year-old Mira. While her fellows plunder, her job is to swim out to the ship and rescue any survivors.

And she’s well suited for it. You see, Mira has a special gift, one passed down from her mother. Like her mom, Mira never feels the cold of the icy ocean waters. In fact, those normally inhospitable waves are a heated song to her soul. And she will brave any danger to bring a struggling survivor back to shore.

That doesn’t excuse Rosevear’s wrongdoing. But it helps Mira feel better about her role in it all.

However, with the latest shipwreck, the watch has laid a trap. While Mira is out looking for survivors, some island residents on Rosevear are shot, and her father is arrested. And the new watch commander proclaims that Mira’s dad and others will be hung by the neck in nine days as a warning to all who would break the law.

There may only be one hope. It’s true that Mira’s mysterious mother gave her the physical ability to survive frigid waters. But she also left her daughter a family secret before she died, a secret buried deep at sea.

The sea gives. And the sea takes, the elders say. And it’s time for young Mira to follow her mother’s map, take what belongs to her, and save the only family she has.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Though Mira’s world is a place of masted sailing ships and high-seas adventure, there’s also a magical element in the mix. We hear of magical creatures such as narwhals, wyverns, firedrakes and phoenix that live in the land. Mira meets mermaid-like sirens as well.

We’re told that witches use the blood of these creatures (the essence of which is magical) to craft potions and cast spells. And apothecaries also employ that bloody magic to enhance their medicines, too. (In fact, Mira encounters some smugglers who are transporting an entire ship full of sealed blood containers.)

We don’t see witches or see spells cast in this book, but Mira does benefit from the enhanced healing effects of a balm that repairs her badly wounded foot over the course of several hours.

Mira also feels a sort of magical connection between herself and her deceased mother. At one point she wonders if her mother will be waiting for her after she dies.

Authority Roles

Mira’s dad is fiercely protective (almost to her detriment). He steps in front of a bullet to protect her. And Mira, in turn, risks everything to aid her father and to ransom him from his death sentence. There are some other supportive and loving people in Mira’s island community. (However, these islanders are also aware of the fact that their shipwrecking ways put many lives at risk. But they do it anyway.)

Most of the characters here, from foes to friends, is deceptive and at least slightly untrustworthy. Mira tries to stay as upright as she can, but it’s hard for her to piece together the machinations swirling about her. And even when she does, it’s difficult for her to know who to trust. Ultimately, the deceptions and betrayals mount to the point where an emotionally damaged Mira decides to dedicate herself to revenge by the first story’s close.

Profanity & Violence

We read occasional uses of the s-word, as well as other crudities such as “b–tard,” “d–n,” “h—.” People drink a grog-like beverage.

Perilous moments abound. Everyone carries some sort of blade on them. And amid the story’s physical skirmishes, people get battered, slashed and stabbed. Some have rifles, too. Men are shot down in heated battles. A young man whom Mira meets, named Seth, is shot in the shoulder and falls bleeding into the sea where he almost drowns, for instance. Mira leaps in to pull him up and save his life.

That said, Mira gets thumped and manhandled quite regularly herself by large men. Someone cuts her finger open to spill some blood and threatens to slash Mira’s throat to drain all of her essence. She is scraped and cut by rocks and a ship’s hull as well as being thrown into hard, corrosive labor. She’s attacked by sharp-clawed creatures of the deep. A magical entity begins to choke her with a dark smoke before being stopped.

Sexual Content

Mira is lustfully drawn to the wrong kind of guys.

When she meets the handsome Seth, she instantly feels a connection and an attraction to him. And though there are questions about Seth’s truthfulness, Mira eventually intensifies her relationship with him. They kiss and caress on several occasions and Mira gives herself to him sexually after time. (That sexual interaction is briefly described in what we might call poetic ways.) However, the story then makes it clear that heated emotions aren’t often a wise guide.

Mira also crosses paths with another mysterious and darkly attractive young man. And the two share flirtations and light touches amid perilous situations. Mira doesn’t get physical with this questionable individual. But he turns out to be the more dependable (if more dangerous) of the two men.

Mira meets several underwater Sirens, mermaid-like women. It’s implied that these creatures with female forms are beautiful and naked, but that’s all the description that’s given.

Discussion Topics


Additional Comments

Compass and Blade is the first book in a trilogy that blends magical fantasy and high seas adventure in a story sprinkled with romance, danger and betrayal.

Parents of younger readers should note that the story contains a variety of violent, bloody situations (that often batter the young female protagonist), some sensual interludes, and some dark magical powers that aren’t fully explained. On the plus side, this tale praises helping others in the heat of danger and lauds loyal friendship in the face of other people’s betrayal.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose