Compass of the Nymphs

Compass of the Nymphs

Compass of the Nymphs was first published in 2013 and is the debut novel of Sam Bennett. It is the first part of a planned series under the name of Taisiya’s Trilogy. Although I don’t really have much more background information on the series than this, you can find out a little more about the author by visiting his website – http://sam-bennett.com/

For many years, the town of Solames has been under the control of the wicked Queen Adrasteia. Every month, the Queen steals away more and more of the children from the town and takes them away to her castle where they are never seen again. The townsfolk are powerless to stop her, but that does not stop one girl from trying.

Taisiya is the last remaining child of Solames and thirsts for justice. Determined that she will kill the Queen and liberate her people, Taisiya tries repeatedly to infiltrate the castle but never gets beyond its outer walls. When she does finally manage to get to the Queen’s chambers, she quickly finds that she is no match for the despot. The Queen is a nymph, and a powerful one at that. There is no way that a young girl could survive against her alone.

Teaming up with Zara, the Queen’s disillusioned advisor, Taisiya sets off on an epic quest to discover the long-lost homeland of the nymphs. Here, she hopes to convince other powerful beings to join her cause. However, time is running short. The Queen has Taisiya’s parents captive and will execute them if Taisiya is not delivered to her by the end of the week…

First of all, I will say that Compass of the Nymphs is by no means a bad first novel. Although very short (totaling only 128 pages in paperback), it is fast paced and Bennett clearly is a decent writer. It never felt as though it was becoming too heavy in terms of exposition and I certainly never felt bored while reading it. If anything, I felt that it was possibly too short as there were scenes, such as Taisiya’s infiltration of the castle, that I felt could have been expanded on in order to build tension within the story. But, this is just a small gripe and the novel at least uses its limited word count efficiently to ensure that the story never drags. Unfortunately, however, there are still some more serious problems with this text.

Although the plot was sound and did make coherent sense, there was nothing there that felt fresh or original. It was a fairly standard fantasy story that did not really bring to the table anything that I had not seen before. While this is not a problem in itself (most people will be quick to point out that there is no such thing as an original idea), it did mean that the story was not incredibly memorable. Some stories that I have read for this blog have presented ideas which have stuck with me long after I have finished the novel – the battle chess of Lord Loss, for example, or the dark twist of The Bone Dragon. There was nothing truly unique about Compass of the Nymphs that stuck in my mind after finished reading.

The novel also fell into the common first novel trap of not having a proper ending. It’s always frustrating for me to reach the end of a book to find that it peters out with no real climax, making the novel seem like the prologue to a longer work rather than a complete novel in its own right. I expect that this is a personal irk of mine, but I like to think that if I pick up a novel it will be a complete story. Plot threads may be left hanging to carry over to the next part of the series but I do like a novel to end a story arc, giving me a satisfying climax to make me want to read more rather than leaving the plot hanging so I feel obliged to.

The characters, while generally likable, also had some problems in terms of motivation. Taisiya’s determination to kill Queen Adrasteia was established in the very first chapter, but we never really find out why she feels this way. I admit, it’s obvious that the Queen is not a particularly nice person and I fully understand why someone would want to kill her but why is it just Taisiya who’s actually willing to do the deed? Dozens of children have been taken from Solames but we never hear of any of their parents standing up to the Queen’s men. I found it a bit difficult to believe that not one person would have the guts to confront the Queen before Taisiya, who has no direct reason for hating her so much.

However, at least at the end of the day Taisiya was a strong female lead. Although I took a while to warm to her (I don’t really gravitate to characters who are introduced while murdering people in cold blood) she did begin to feel more like a rounded human being through her interactions with Zara. The two characters have great chemistry and do work well off each other, Zara’s intelligence complimenting Taisiya’s passion. The supporting cast of the novel were actually very strong and well-rounded in personality, but I felt that they were all lacking in back-story. We did not really find out anything about how the characters came to be who they were in the novel and I really hope that they are fleshed out more in the sequel.

Unfortunately, Queen Adrasteia was not crafted with the same care as the protagonists. One word is used again and again to describe the Queen throughout the story. Evil. She is an evil woman who comes from a race of evil nymphs. We really learn nothing about her beyond the fact that she’s apparently evil. For me, ability to be villainous is not the mark of a strong villain. In my mind, if you flip the perspective of a story you should always be able to tell that the villain is doing the right thing (from their own warped perspective of what is right). I know that there are exceptions to this rule, but having a villain who is just evil seems like a cop-out. It’s weak plotting and just makes them bland and unmemorable. I hope that the Queen does have some hidden depths that are going to be revealed later because, in Compass of the Nymphs she was simply mustachio-twirlingly unsubtle.

So, to conclude, Compass of the Nymphs is not a terrible story by any stretch of the imagination. It’s well written and contains some likeable characters. However, don’t expect anything particularly unique or special from it. The plot is standard fantasy that offers nothing that you won’t have seen elsewhere and its villain is particularly flat and unmemorable. It will be interesting to see what path this story takes in its sequel, but I was unfortunately underwhelmed by this one.

Compass of the Nymphs can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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