Book Review: The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton

Genre: Fantasy, Romance Rating: **1/2

I saw this book at the library when I was picking up Tom DeHaven’s book a while back. I was intrigued by the cover, so the next time I went to the library, I got it.

Compass roseThe storyline’s very simple: Kallista is a woman warrior/mage whose powers suddenly gets amped up big time as she is chosen to destroy a demon in a neighboring country. She gets help from several others, mostly men, who are ‘linked’ to her magically.

One reason why I picked up this book is because it was published by Luna, which I later learned was a Harlequin imprint. Harlequin, as you know, specializes in producing throbbing romances, but with Luna, they are branching out into the science fiction/fantasy territory. Compass Rose proves why they chose to publish this book. The story starts out strong: Kallista is zapping enemies left and right, but it still doesn’t look good. She calls out to the gods for help, and the gods answer by giving her a power boost that slays most of the enemy, except for an enemy dude named Stone who is not only spared, but bears a compass mark similar to what Kallista now wears. Along with her bodyguard, a runaway woman from the other side, and a mysterious rich stranger, Kallista is charged to travel to another country to slay a demon…

And then the story grounds to a halt as they wait for other linked people to find them, they train their new powers, and have sex. Mind you, Kallista agonizes over it because she’s not sure if she really loves her bodyguard as much as he loves her, and Stone, who’s an angry, sullen prisoner, suddenly turns into a wishy-washy puss who gets all mushy and sweet because by golly, what else is he going to do? And Obed, the rich and handsome stranger, is in torment because…

Oh, why am I even bothering? This is a harem story, pure and simple. Everyone’s beautiful and they all even get married to each other for goodness sake (which, I guess, is nice because they are actually sworn to each other rather than just falling into bed all at once). Once the bed antics are put aside, the story does get interesting again as they all learn to work with each other and Kallista learns to put her trust in those she’s linked with.

This looks like to be book one of a trilogy. (And speaking as a fantasy writer, is there *any* fantasy books out there that don’t start off as trilogies? Don’t answer that.) Other than Stone’s split personality between bitter young man/puss, the abrupt POV changing in the middle of scenes, and a chapter that ends at a weird spot of a conversation and continues at the beginning of the next chapter, side characters that appear to disappear into the woodwork (literally and literally) it wasn’t all that bad. I don’t know if it’s enough to make me pick up the next book, but maybe I’ll consider it if I want something light and easy to read without making me think too hard.

This gets two-1/2 rose marks out of five. Romance and fantasy mashups? What will they think of next?