Star Compass is a YA steampunk novel set in a Victorian, patriarchal world with spaceships and nano-lifted skirts. Whether in the Southampton slums, the upper-class ballrooms, or a sleek spaceship headed for a new colony, the setting was well executed, and all of these different perspectives combined to provide a world that felt complete.
The novel follows two primary characters: Diana, a noble-turned-pickpocket, and Derek, a revolutionary-turned-policeman. For me, Diana’s perspective was the more engaging of the two, but my absolute favorite character has to be Tipper, a young and hopelessly optimistic streetrat who’s akin to Diana’s younger brother. All of the characters, both those I adored or despised, came across as real people, each with their own meaningful motivations. For example, though Diana did have a bit of a “not like other girls” perspective, it was at least somewhat nuanced. She could love math and science and appreciate the usefulness of trousers without entirely eschewing femininity and the enjoyment of wearing a beautiful ballgown.
Time for a few nitpicky complaints. Despite my appreciation for most of the characters, the romance wasn’t particularly compelling for me. The initial difference in power between the two love interests was unsettling, but thankfully it was somewhat of a slow burn and didn’t get in the way of the individuals’ character developments. I also would have really liked to see more of Diana’s mathematical ability in action. We were often told how it helps her to navigate crowds and predict spaceship trajectories, but there were only a couple of times when we actually got to see her actively make use of it.
I found Star Compass to be quite an entertaining read, and it inspired me to look out for more books by the author and in the steampunk genre. However, at least from my perspective, this book is much more science fiction than it is fantasy. So although I recommend that you consider giving it a try, I can’t say that it belongs in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off.