This review is never going to do Sea Wolf justice. This book is much too complex and smart for a few words to be enough, and too many words would take the focus away from what really matters, ie the book itself.
Sea Wolf picks up three months after the end of Compass Rose. I strongly recommend reading them in order. The Man o’ War crew is still trying to navigate life in a world where the ocean is the least dangerous place, and that’s saying a lot since it’s filled with lethal creatures and the air above reeks of deadly gas. Right from the start, the author puts the characters in a very precarious situation, and things will keep getting worse. Of course.
I have loved every book by Anna Burke that I’ve read (I still have to read Thorn), and I realised while reading this one that my favourites have one thing in common: boats. More than one thing, actually. Water too. I’d read the author’s bio but what “enjoys all things nautical” really meant didn’t register until now. The way she writes, through Compass Rose, about the currents, the ocean, its inhabitants turns them all into characters in their own right.
With this book as with Anna Burke’s previous ones, each word feels as if it was carefully weighted, some put aside, discarded, so that only the exact right ones to tell this specific story remain. Anna Burke’s writing is at once beautiful and efficient. It’s precisely crafted to break the reader’s heart while not giving a lot of opportunity to breathe as they, along with the characters, are put through the wringer again.
One of my favorite themes in lesfic – and not only there – is that of chosen family. Even though Rose didn’t really choose who ended up being part of her family, she now has one, for better or for worse. In Sea Wolf even more than in Compass Rose, who one chooses to be and who one chooses to be with is everything.
In my review of Compass Rose, I wrote about reluctant chemistry. The attraction and love and lust between Rose and Miranda are still significant in this instalment, but romance isn’t what this book is about at all. Rose and Miranda get to know each other better, and, at least for Rose, get to know themselves better too. While Sea Wolf answers some of the questions Compass Rose left open, it also brings up a whole new set. A lot of what Rose thought she had understood by the end of book 1 turns out to be false, or at least not exactly as true as she believed. Burke’s characters are flawed and so very human, and character growth isn’t just a phrase. It’s not always pretty however, but it’s very real.
There’s something very special about dystopian novels. The premise is an awful catastrophe/apocalypse/human stupidity (that one feels more and more real) and yet there is so much hope in surviving.