Orphaned when he was just a fry, Lune gets scooped up by Calico, the phoenix god of space-time. Calico raises Lune with all the phoenix lore and culture he can share. In fact, Lune just might know more about phoenixes than he does about his own dormant siren identity or the magical compass he’s carried since birth. None of that matters while Lune happily spends his days on a remote island where he and a friend started a successful ferry business to take passengers to and from Star Land Island. But recently, Lune’s special compass has started to come to life. Lune may not know much, but he at least knows that it means his Intended, his future life mate, is close. Lune knows he is ready to forge a relationship with whoever bears the matching compass. In fact, he’s desperate to have a family all his own and he’s determined to make the most of his match.
For centuries, Narsus has known the compass he carries will lead him to his one true love. Now that the magic has finally awoken and is indicating his Intended is near, Narsus is in a panic. He is convinced that his mixed heritage of undead, poison phoenix will hurt his mate–if not outright kill them. Unable to stand the cruel knowledge that his very being would hurt the one person he would otherwise love unconditionally, Narsus literally throws his compass into the sea. After much coaxing and more than one guilt trip from his best friend who happened to lose his own compass (and chance at true love) long ago, Narsus finally deigns to at least go through the motions of courting his mate, Lune.
Narsus’ first mistake may have been throwing his compass away. His second mistake is sending a proxy to his own marriage. Lune takes these slights in stride, determined to prove the compass magic has made a good match between them. After several days of receiving endless patience and unreserved forgiveness, Narsus realizes his third mistake–that he’s sabotaging the best chance he has at happiness. Cautiously, Narsus begins to make amends and, as these two get to know each other, they realize they truly are meant for one another. But love and affection alone are not enough to keep them together; if they cannot locate Narsus’ lost compass, then the match will break.
Compass to My Heart is a fated-lover fantasy that takes place in a world that connects to the one from Bennu Bright’s Infinity 8 series. Lune’s foster father is one of the MC’s from that story, but I feel like Compass to My Heart can definitely stand alone. The land that Lune and Narsus live in brims with as much magic as the characters brim with lore from their respective heritages. Yet even with a broad range of mythical elements, the story stays resolutely focused on the potential romance that might unfold between our two main characters.
I loved the idea of a fated mates story complicated by one half of the pairing trying to sacrifice their own happiness to protect the other. In Compass to my Heart, this took on a unique flavor since Narsus kind of preemptively rejected Lune as his mate. Though I will admit, the flow of events felt a bit convoluted. Narsus knew his compass was reacting to Lune’s, so Narsus chucked his compass into the sea to try to refuse the call. Yet Narsus still went through with the ceremony (albeit by proxy) to marry Lune. Then Narsus worked real hard at being a jerk and intentionally trying to push Lune away, burying his fear about being literal poison with vitriol and emotional indifference. Lune rightfully thought of Narsus as a jerk at first, so it felt like a big stretch that Lune would be so accommodating to a man who radiated cold aloofness. After a modified “only one bed” type of situation, these two somehow decided to give each other the benefit of the doubt. I wasn’t enamored of how quickly Lune changed his tune; I didn’t really understand why one night in a shared space would make him open up, but there wouldn’t have been much of a story if one of them didn’t bend.
In contrast to Narsus’ staunch refusal to believe the compass magic actually worked or that he could actually have a mate, Lune pretty quickly set aside his hurt feelings and threw every modicum of trust he has into the magic of the compass. He was convinced that being compass-matched would make him impervious to Narsus’ poison. This idea got really developed throughout the story as Lune discovers how Narsus and his poison call to Lune’s deeply dormant siren form. When Lune realized his mate was the key to unlocking his true form, Lune got fully invested in making their relationship work. Narsus’ having poison everything was a key part of showing how fully Lune trusted the magic.
Lune frequently tried to test his theory and Narsus was very wary of letting any part of him come into contact with Lune. For example, Narsus has poison skin, poison breath, and poison feathers. He wore a plaque mask to protect others from him and layered up to keep his skin away from people. Yet on page, these measures really felt like they only cropped up when Narsus needed an avatar for “I’m untouchable.” How often Narsus wore the mask, when he needed to cover his face with a scarf, and where his physical person was poisonous felt like it was pretty inconsistently described. For me, that lessened the symbolic meaning of these elements.
I thought the world our characters inhabited seemed very interesting and complex. Perhaps a bit too complex in some cases. I knew Narsus was an undead, blood drinking, poison phoenix, but I never really knew what that meant or what space he was supposed to occupy in the world, beyond being a sad boy love interest for Lune. These identities Narsus and Lune have are very much at the fabric of who they are. However, because there is no real world building or social structure in the book, these facets came across much like the plague mask did, hollow. Even the compass magic itself felt like it was conveniently unknowable, so it could be trotted out to explain away any anomalies in the world. Like how fated mates have only a certain number of days to mutually confirm their commitment to the match, handily represented by glowing stones that only show up once one of them gets extinguished.
Overall this was a fun, but very busy story. I thought the world was surely a rich and complex one; how could I think anything less when our two main characters need strings of adjectives to describe them? Yet the supporting structure, the world building and linking between the different identities of our characters felt lacking. My reading experience left me with the impression of having read a flowery, melodramatic get together more so than an immersive fantasy. Fans of stories that focus on unique-to-a-fault characters, or any kind of fated lovers or near enemies to lovers stories will probably find something to enjoy here.