Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton

The Compass Rose From

The legends of the Godstruck were just that -- legends.

Until, in an attempt to defend her people, Captain Kallista Varyl called on the One for aid and was granted abilities such as no one had seen in centuries.

Now Kallista has been charged with a new destiny as one of the most powerful women in the land -- but her power is useless if it cannot be controlled.

Mastering her "Godstruck" abilities is the first step. The next, learning that she cannot unlock the secrets of the Compass Rose and defeat her nation's enemy alone. And finally she must stop a demon-possessed king . . .

Originally published in 2005, The Compass Rose was one of the early books in Harlequin's Luna range. The idea was to publish fantasy novels with a light touch of romance and I rather enjoyed the early days of the line, including this one. Its sequel, The Barbed rose, came out a year later and I enjoyed that one too. Unfortunately, at that point Luna dropped the trilogy. The final book, The Eternal Rose, wasn't published until late 2007 when Juno picked it up.

That means that I bought and devoured the first two, but had a longer than expected wait for the third. And for some reason I can not now remember (probably just that I didn't get around to it) I never read that third book. I always wanted to, but as more time went by and my memories of the first ones grew vaguer and vaguer (and reading paper books got harder and harder for me) it just became too big a job and I didn't finish the trilogy.

Recently, all three books were rereleased as ebooks. Hooray! I bought them on the spot (yet more books I have in paper and electronic versions) and decided to reread the first two before finally tackling the third.

So how was the reread?

I enjoyed discovering the world again. I remember the basics, but there was so much detail I had forgotten that it was almost like a new read.

Dayton's matriarchal society surprised me a few times as I'd forgotten how dominant it was. I found myself feeling outraged on behalf of the male characters, which interested me as they are treated no worse (and often better) that any woman in a standard patriarchal-focused fantasy. And I accept that because I'm so used to it. But this switch kept suprising me. And yet, I don't think Dayton did it at all for shock value, but because that was part of the tale she had to tell.

The main things I had remembered was the enemy Kallista was fighting and the Adaran social custom of binding several people (up to twelve) into a form of group marriage. That is a major part of the story, again not for shock value, but because a group of people find themselves bound together not really by choice but at the will of the Goddess. They then have to learn how to live together, how to care for each other and how to love each other.

There is a lot of focus on choice in this book. On how much choice individuals really have and what exactly it might mean. I found this a little ironic (in a good way) as all the main characters made a huge choice at the beginning to open themselves up to the will of the Goddess and then fought desperately to avoid that little choices that were demanded by that freely given big one.

The heroine, Kallista, is especially guilty of this. She basically says "Your will be done" early in the book and then stubbornly fights the consequences of that until right at the end of the book, when she realises what she's doing and opens herself up again. Kallista is an appealing character, which made this stubbornness frustrating rather than annoying, but I did occasionally find myself wishing she'd just get over it and get on with things. All the same, her reasons are logical (at least to her) and it is something she needs to work through.

The other members of her bound family, or ilian, are four males and another woman, making for a total of six. They are all well drawn, although having so many main characters does require careful sharing of on-page time for each of the secondary five on Dayton's part. On the whole she does it well. I feel like I know all of Kallista's ilian and I certainly want things to work out for all of them.

The villain in this novel is, in many ways, rather small and easily defeated. The book is about the main six characters and how they learn to cope with their destiny and each other. The "baddies" will be showing up in more detail in the second book as I recall, and I have no idea about the last book as I know very little about it. This is clearly a "setup" book, with the main plot threads coming in its sequels. This is not a complaint, as it is instead a lovely character novel which also clearly establishes the plot conflict to come.

I am looking foward to reread The Barbed Rose and finally getting to The Eternal Rose.

The Compass Rose
Gail Dayton
The One Rose, Book 1
Read: 1-1-10 to 5-1-10

The One Rose

  1. The Compass Rose
  2. The Barbed Rose (Goodreads link)
  3. The Eternal Rose (Goodreads link)


orannia said...

Oh, I'm very intrigued. I love fantasy and this sounds good! I've added it to my TBR list :)

Aarti said...

I should look into this trilogy! I like the idea that it focuses on choice and individuals. Great choice for flashback!